But the brand of hockey they have played over the past 15 days has been all heart and soul. Reaching the semifinal was a feat achieved with a win against the Australians.
Up against world no. 2 Argentina in the last-4 match, they put up a good fight and shed a few drops of blood (Navneet Kaur) as well before going down 1-2.
In a match where they gave their all, at least in the first and final quarters, the Indian team was eliminated from gold medal contention by a team which was leagues ahead in experience and more importantly bigstage exposure. India had their moments but floundered especially in injection, trapping and penalty corners.
India stay in the hunt for a momentous podium finish and take on Great Britain in the bronze-medal playoff on Friday. India had lost to Britain 1-4 in the league stage. Meanwhile, in the final, Argentina will match up against Netherlands, who outclassed Britain 5-1 in the other semifinal clash. India were off to a blazing start with Gurjit Kaur getting her dragflick past an Argentine defender and goalkeeper Maria Succi in the second minute. The defence did well to soak up pressure until the end of the quarter.
Argentina stormed the Indian defence early in the second quarter with Julieta Jankunas and Maria Trinchinetti fetching them two penalty corners in as many minutes. They got the equaliser soon, skipper Noel Barrionuevo, a veteran of 337 caps, on target in the 18th minute.
The Las Leonas had the better of exchanges and possession as they used the left flank, giving little room for India to play their game. Although India managed to avert further damage, Argentina had started to chip away at their rivals’ game plan. India found it hard to dribble or make short passes and employed long hits which were checked by the opposition’s experienced backline. Also, there were gaping holes between the Indian midfield and forwardline, which allowed Argentina a greater share of ball possession.
Argentina’s raids wore the Indian defence down and each time they took their eyes off the ball or stumbled with their footwork inside the circle, they gave away penalty corners. This led to the matchwinner in the 36th minute. Barrionuevo, the 37-year-old defender with a lethal dragflick as her main weapon, slotted home off a penalty corner. There were a few anxious moments with the umpire seeking a referral, which went in Argentina’s favour.
India stepped on the pedal, fought tooth and nail for another goal, another chance to stay alive in the match. With 17.4 seconds for the final hooter, they went for a referral, seeking a penalty corner which was turned down.