Great Britain, the three-time champions, are eyeing a gold and podium which has eluded them since their triumph at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Manpreet Singh & co on the other hand, are looking to end a 41-year old drought. India won their eighth and last gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Games. For over three decades now, both teams have struggled to regain glory and the journey towards that starts on Sunday.
The teams have taken contrasting paths to the knockouts. India have put up their best showing since 1980, winning four of their five league engagements. Their only blemish was the 1-7 drubbing handed by the Australians.
Great Britain booked their last-8 berth with a 2-2 draw against Belgium in the last pool match on Friday, finishing third in Pool B. The Adam Dixon marshalled team returned a mixed bag in the league stage, winning and losing two matches each, while their last match ended in a draw.
Having stumbled at this stage in Rio five years ago, India are looking to make amends and will be tough opponents for Great Britain. Although there are still holes to be plugged in their game, India have shown allround improvement. In their last league match against hosts Japan, their forwardline and the midfielders showed spunk and worked as a cohesive unit.
The defenders too have shown improvement, although they can be more efficient while defending inside the circle considering the penalty corners they have handed on a platter to their opponents.
They ought to be wary of Britain and the brand of hockey they play. Their game is soaked in aggression and man-to-man marking is the team’s USP. In the Pool matches, Britain conceded 11 goals but scored 11. Against India, they will come prepared to break the midfield in which India play an attacker and defender.
India also have some scores to settle, having gone down 1-2 in the bronze medal match at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games to Britain.