Bhubaneswar: Eight-time winners India qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after thrashing Russia 7-1 (11-3 on aggregate) in the second game of the two-legged FIH Qualifiers for men here on Saturday.
The men’s team booked their tickets after the women defeated USA 6-5 on aggregate to qualify for the sporting extravaganza.
The Indian men, ranked fifth in the world, had earlier defeated world number 22 Russia 4-2 in the first-leg on Friday.
Skipper Rani Rampal’s 48th minute strike sealed Tokyo Olympics berth for the Indian women’s hockey team as they pipped USA 6-5 on aggregate despite losing 1-4 in the second leg of the FIH Qualifier.
After thrashing USA 5-1 on Friday, it was expected to be a formality for the Indian women but they were given a real scare by the USA women, who raced to a 4-0 lead at the halfway mark.
However the partisan fans went into raptures when Rani pulled one back to maintain the slender lead till final hooter.
Indian women have now qualified for back-to-back Olympics having sealed it in Rio de Janeiro after a gap of 36 years. The women’s team first participated in the Quadrennial extavaganza in 1980 where the men’s team last won their gold medal.
Amanda Magadan (5th, 28th minutes), skipper Kathleen Sharkey (14th) and Alyssa Parker (20th) scored for the visiting side.
On Saturday, Akashdeep Singh (23rd and 29th minutes) and Rupinder Pal Singh (48th, 59th) scored a brace each, while Lalit Upadhyay (17th), Nilkanta Sharma (47th) and Amit Rohidas (60th) struck after Russia took an early lead in the opening minute through Alexey Sobolevskiy.
The Russians stunned India 25 seconds into the game when Sobolevskiy opened the scoring to reduce the goal difference to just one.
The Indians were slow to get off the blocks and it took seven minutes for the hosts to get their first scoring opportunity in the form of a penalty corner, but it was wasted.
After a sedate start, the Indians intensified the pressure on Russia’s goal but were unable to create clear chances. Russia, on the other hand, looked dangerous on counter-attacks as the hosts trailed by a goal in the opening quarter.
India equalised in the 21st minute through a field strike by Lalit Upadhyay, who deflected in a Hardik Singh shot.
The Indians upped their ante and took the lead in the 23rd minute when Akashdeep scored following a penalty corner.
There was no stopping India after that as they kept up the pressure on the Russian defence and mounted quite a few attacks.