Melbourne, Dec 6 (IANS) India reached the last four of the FIH Champions Trophy hockey for the first time since 2004 after defeating Belgium 1-0 in a nail-biting quarterfinal match here Thursday.
After sitting out of the Champions Trophy for the last six editions, India's grand return to the tournament continued Thursday. In Saturday's semifinal the eight-time Olympic champions will take on the winner of the Australia vs England quarterfinal tie to be held later in the day.
India will look to win their first Champions Trophy medal since 1982 when they won the bronze, their best ever performance in the tournament. The event is already a success for the team considering that India came into the event with a wildcard and as the lowest-ranked team of the tournament, ranking 11.
Nithin Thimmaiah gave India the early advantage after getting a perfect feed from skipper Sardar Singh, who played his 150th match for India, for the easy 1-0 tap in.
Belgium slowly gained momentum as the half went on and gave the Asians some worrisome moments late in the half with two good penalty corner chances. But ultimately India escaped the half with the slim lead.
In the second half, it was India's turn to take charge but they simply couldn't convert their chances as the tension built on with only one goal separating the teams.
Belgium had a handful of late penalty corners while India counter-attacked. But neither team managed to put a dent in the scoreboard as Thimmaiah's goal stood as the lone marker in the critical match.
Belgium failed to convert six penalty corners while India missed their lone opportunity in the game.
Belgium are still looking for their elusive first victory at the Champions Trophy. The European nation will look to get their first win in the placement round.