India, led by their goalkeeper Bharat Chetri and coached by former Australian Olympian Michael Nobbs, have some sweet memories attached with London for they bagged the gold the last time the city had played hosts to the Olympics in 1948. In fact, they had beaten the Dutch 2-1 in the semifinals that year. For the records, the Netherlands are the only team after India to have won successive golds in Olympic hockey.
But having said that, these are mere statistics today and India will need to pull up their socks against the Dutch if they have to progress in this year's Olympics for there is very little gap between teams around the world in international hockey today. Players like Sandeep Singh and Sardara Singh will have to deliver from the word go to do their team a favour.
India, ranked 10 in the world, have not figured in a semifinal since the boycott-marred Moscow Olympics while the Netherlands, along with Australia and Germany, are some of the best in the business today. India, however, have played great hockey in this year's qualifying rounds and will look forward to repeat that performance.
The blue-and-pink turf at the Riverbank Arena which will host the Olympic matches for the first time will also be a concern for the Indians, besides the recent injuries. The team struggled in its practice matches in Spain before the Games and will need to adjust at the earliest. "We want to produce good hockey. We are eager to show that the London connection with Indian hockey is not just symbolic," said Chetri, promising an exhibition of aggressive hockey. India are clubbed with the Netherlands, Germany, Korea, New Zealand and Belgium in Pool B at at the London Games.
India versus the Netherlands: Olympic encounters
India won 3-0 at 1928 Amsterdam Games, final
India won 2-1 at the 1948 London Games, semifinal
India won 6-1 at the 1952 Helsinki Games, final
India won 4-1 at the 1960 Rome Games, group match
India won 2-1 at the 1964 Tokyo Games, group match
1-1 draw at the 1972 Munich Games, group match
India won 2-1 at the 1972 Games, third/fourth place match
The Netherlands won 3-1 at 1976 Montreal Games, group match
India won 5-2 at 1984 Los Angeles Games, classification match
The Netherlands won 3-1 at 2004 Athens Games, group match
India hold a 7-2 edge over the Dutch in Olympic encounters with one game resulting in draw. But, while India have not reached the semi-finals since 1980, the Dutch have figured in the last four in each of the last six Olympics. The match starts at 20.30 IST.
(With PTI inputs)