India dominate Japan to win Asian Games men's hockey gold, qualify for 2024 Olympics

Harmanpreet Singh scored twice in the Asian Games final as India qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images

India won the Asian Games gold medal in men's hockey and qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics with a 5-1 win over Japan in the final on Friday.

In a performance that oozed control and class, India proved why the pre-tournament predictions had them as overwhelming favourites. Manpreet Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Amit Rohidas and Abhishek got on the scoresheet before Japan even had a sniff, as India coach Craig Fulton celebrated success in his first big tournament in charge of the Indian team.

Fulton's aim before the tournament was to prove that his team were the best in Asia, and this was a performance in the final that would have pleased him immensely.

In a goalless first quarter, India never panicked or deviated from their plans - a very un-India thing to see in a big game. Hardik Singh pulled the strings in midfield, Jarmanpreet Singh ran his heart out down the right, Harmanpreet and Rohidas were excellent at the heart of the defence. That meant the forwards like Mandeep Singh and Abhishek had a solid platform from where they could create their mischief in the opposition's circle.

The first goal might have taken some time coming, but it was well worth the wait. After a scrappy period of play in the circle, the ball fell to Manpreet in the D on the left side, and the former captain made it count with a sensational reverse hit into the roof of the net.

India went into half-time with that lead, but the third quarter was where they pulled away from the Japanese, thanks to their dragflickers coming to the party. Harmanpreet doubled the lead with a powerful flick that went past the Japanese goalkeeper before he could as much as lift a leg. Amit Rohidas rounded off a fantastic tournament for him with another goal off a dragflick, his fifth of the tournament.

Abhishek, another of India's stars at Hangzhou, put the gloss on the scoreline with another superbly taken goal. He received a pass in the circle, turned the defender, and then unleashed a powerful drive across the goalkeeper, which gave India enough breathing room to see the match out without having to extend themselves.

Even when Seren Tanaka scored for Japan with a deflection off a dragflick, India had no reason to panic. The match was effectively won. After Tanaka's goal, India kept the ball well, moved the ball well, and kept Japan at bay. It was only fair then that Harmanpreet put the proverbial cherry on the cake with his 13th goal of the tournament.

Unlucky 13? Not for India's no.13. He's taking his team to Paris next year, but before that, they'll celebrate a richly-deserved gold medal.