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India Aim to End 44-Year Wait for Olympics Gold in Hockey – All You Should Know

From form to key players, here's everything you need to know about the Indian hockey team before the Paris Olympics.

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It was in 1980, a remarkable 44 years ago from now, when the Indian men's hockey team – the most successful field hockey side in the Olympics – clinched their last Olympic gold. After a prolonged 41-year drought, the podium jinx was finally broken three years ago, when the team won a bronze medal in Tokyo.

Now, as we stand next door to the Paris OlympicsHarmanpreet Singh and Co will be aiming to elevate their medal's hue, from metallic brown to radiant yellow. 

Can they? 

Here's everything you need to know before the showdown in Paris.

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How Did India Qualify for 2024 Paris Olympics?

The men in blue earned an automatic Paris Olympics qualification when they clinched the gold medal in the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, by defeating Japan 5-1.

From form to key players, here's everything you need to know about the Indian hockey team before the Paris Olympics.

The Indian men's hockey team won their fourth Asian Games gold medal.

(Photo: PTI)

Who Are India’s Opponents?

Currently ranked 4th in the FIH World Rankings, the Indian men's team faces a challenging journey in Pool B, pitted against last edition's champions Belgium, last edition's runners-up Australia, Rio Olympics gold medalists Argentina, as well as New Zealand and Ireland. Meanwhile, Pool A hosts a lineup of strong contenders such as Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, France, and South Africa.

Let's delve into India's opponents in the group-stage matches:

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New Zealand (FIH Ranking –10th)

India will kick start their Olympics journey against the world number 10 on 27 July. Despite their lower ranking, New Zealand has proven to be a formidable opponent for India in the past. In the 2023 FIH Hockey World Cup, the Black Sticks defeated India 5-4 in a crossover match. In the 2018 Commonwealth Games, too, India went down to the Kiwis 2-3.

Presently, New Zealand are in decent form, having recently secured a narrow 3-2 victory over Pakistan, and dominated Canada and Chile in the FIH Men's Hockey Qualifiers.

From form to key players, here's everything you need to know about the Indian hockey team before the Paris Olympics.

New Zealand defeated India 5-4 victory via a penalty shootout at the 2023 FIH World Cup.

Image: PTI

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Argentina (FIH Ranking – 7th)

The 2016 Rio Olympics gold medallist Argentina are the second team that India will face in Paris, on 29 July. Historically, India has had an edge over Los Leones. In recent matches, Argentina secured victories over Germany twice, while splitting their encounters with Belgium, winning one and losing the other.

From form to key players, here's everything you need to know about the Indian hockey team before the Paris Olympics.

Argentina had won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Image: Hockey India

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Ireland (FIH Ranking – 12)

The lowest-ranked team in Pool B, Ireland faced India twice during their FIH Pro League debut in February 2024. In their initial encounter, India secured a narrow 1-0 victory, while the subsequent match saw the European side suffering a resounding 4-0 defeat. Ireland's encounters against the Netherlands, Australia and Spain also ended in defeats.

From form to key players, here's everything you need to know about the Indian hockey team before the Paris Olympics.

Amongst all of India's group-stage opponents, Ireland are the lowest ranked team.

Image: Hockey India

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Belgium (FIH Ranking – 2nd)

Ranked second in the world, defending champions Belgium will pose the most formidable challenge for India in the group stage. Since the Rio Olympics in 2016, where they defeated India 5-2 in the semifinals, Craig Fulton’s team has clashed with Belgium in 21 matches, with Belgium emerging victorious 10 times, India clinching 9 wins, and two matches ending in draws. In the recent FIH Pro League, Belgium suffered two defeats against Germany, but managed to secure a victory against Argentina while losing another match against them.

From form to key players, here's everything you need to know about the Indian hockey team before the Paris Olympics.

Belgium defeated India 5-2 in the semifinals of Tokyo Olympics.

Image: PTI

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Australia (FIH Ranking – 5th)

Although ranked lower than India, Australia will be another steep hurdle to cross, having inflicted heartbreaking defeats on multiple occasions. At the Tokyo Olympics, the Kangaroos delivered a stunning blow with a 7-1 victory in their pool match. At the 2022 Commonwealth Games final, the 2004 Olympic gold medalists dominated India in a resounding 7-0 win. At the FIH Pro League, India endured two losses against the three-time World Cup winners, further highlighting their troubles against the Aussies.

From form to key players, here's everything you need to know about the Indian hockey team before the Paris Olympics.

Australia defeated India 7-0 at the 2022 Commonwealth Games final.

Image: PTI

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India's Current Form

While the men in blue won an Asian Games gold medal last year, their recent performances at the FIH Pro League underscores the need for fine-tuning their preparations to secure the coveted gold medal.

India have won only four of their nine matches in 2024, whilst also suffering a defeat against Australia with fifteen points in eight matches, they are currently ranked third on the FIH Pro League standings.

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Key Players For India

  • Harmanpreet Singh

Leading the Indian side with finesse, Harmanpreet Singh stands tall as one of the premier drag flickers globally, making him a pivotal figure in India's quest for success. His stellar performance was instrumental in securing India's podium finish at the Tokyo Olympics, while he also led India to a silver medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, scoring nine goals. Singh's leadership propelled the team to victories in the 2023 Asian Champions Trophy and the 2022 Asian Games, netting an impressive 13 goals along the way.

From form to key players, here's everything you need to know about the Indian hockey team before the Paris Olympics.

Harmanpreet Singh was instrumental in securing India's podium finish at the Tokyo Olympics.

(Photo: Hockey India)
  • Mandeep Singh

Despite facing various challenges throughout his career, Mandeep Singh has proven himself as a crucial asset to the Indian team. As the former captain, he led India to a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics and also contributed to the team's third-place finish at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. The 29-year-old forward was also a key player in India’s 2022 Asian Games success, scoring 12 goals at the event in Hangzhou.

  • PR Sreejesh

An iconic goalkeeper, 35-year-old PR Sreejesh has three Olympic appearances under his belt. Sreejesh played a pivotal role in securing India's bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, ending India's wait of four decades.

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How Have India Performed in the Previous Editions?

Indian men's hockey has a storied history in the Olympic Games, dating back to the game’s introduction to the international sporting event. The team's journey has been marked by periods of dominance, struggle, and recent resurgence.

The men in blue enjoyed unprecedented success from the late 1920s to 1956, securing gold in every Olympic Games and earning a total of eight gold medals, including six consecutive victories from 1928 to 1956, with additional triumphs at Tokyo 1964 and Moscow 1980. However, a prolonged phase decline from 1960 to 2008 left fans longing for podium finishes.

From form to key players, here's everything you need to know about the Indian hockey team before the Paris Olympics.

India first clinched a gold medal in field hockey at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.

Image: X

The 21st century heralded a revival, with Roelant Oltmans and Graham Reid being the architects of Indian hockey's revival. The turning point arrived at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where India returned to the podium.

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