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Much has changed in Indian hockey, invariably for the better, from the depths of London in 2012. However, world hockey is stagnant at the top since Beijing, when India failed to make the cut for the first time in history.
In the world of Olympics, Germany and the Netherlands have stayed at the top among the men and women respectively over the last two editions.
Even as the two champion sides attempt to stay in line for a hat-trick, India eyes a bright future.
While others are trying to emulate its unmatched record — an eight gold six of them successive from 1928 to 1956 — India is on a rebuilding process, trying to rediscover its game at the highest level.
The Champions Trophy silver and the overall positive results in the last two years and the determined attitude of the in the team has sparked a lot of hopes.
Clubbed with the Netherlands, Germany, Argentina, Ireland and Canada in group-B, Indian men’s team would be keen to start well against Ireland and step it up against Germany, Argentina, the Netherlands and Canada in that order over the next seven days.
The aspirations of a semifinal berth could get a boost, it is believed, if India can reach the third place in the group.
The top four teams qualify for the quarterfinals in the new format, but a fourth spot may mean a clash with Australia, which has won a medal in all last six Olympics, from the other group in the first stage of the knock-out. Britain, Belgium, New Zealand, Spain and Brazil are the other teams in group-A.
The Dutch women, meanwhile, have gone undefeated in the Olympics in 14 matches, and are attempting to better Australia’s record of 18 win sfrom 1992 to 2000.
Incidentally, the Pakistan men would be missing the Olympics for the first time since 1980. Pakistan had boycotted the Olympics in 1980, and returned to clinch the gold in 1984 in Los Angeles, for their fourth title.
The competition format has opened fresh avenues and hopes, but there is a warning that there will be no classification matches for teams that finish fifth and sixth in the group. It will be curtains.
The Indian team, guided efficiently by Roelant Oltmans, has been positive and has the backing of the entire nation.
For, no matter what all medals you win in the other disciplines like shooting, boxing, wrestling, tennis, weightlifting or badminton, the majority of the Indian sports fans are enchanted by hockey.
Public memory may be short, but not when it comes to recalling the glorious days of Indian hockey, even as the team gears up for its record 20th edition in the modern Games.