Amstelveen (Netherlands): A rejuvenated India is no longer considered pushovers, but a rejuvenated India would take revenge on England when the two sides open their Pool B campaign here in the Women’s Hockey World Cup on Sunday.
India’s women’s hockey team would like to tie scores against a side that shattered their hopes of a bronze medal at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.
India came tantalizingly close to claiming their first Olympic medal in Tokyo, only to lose 3-4 to England, who are the flagship Britain here.
But going into the tournament, the Indians would be very confident, especially after a creditable third place finish in their first outing in the FIH Pro League.
India’s best performance at the World Cup was fourth place at the inaugural edition in 1974, but since taking a historic fourth place at the Tokyo Games, the team has grown phenomenally.
The Indian women’s team achieved its best ever world ranking of sixth place in May and then gave some of the world’s top teams a run for their money in the FIH Pro League. The Indian team finished on the podium ahead of strong teams such as Belgium, Australia and England.
Experienced goalkeeper Savita Punic carried out captaincy responsibilities brilliantly since the takeover of talismanic Rani Rampalwho has been sidelined since the Tokyo Games due to a hamstring injury.
Savita has been on top form while she will have a young and energetic backup in Bichu Devi Kharibam.
The backline will be under the watchful eye of Vice-Captain Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur, Udita and Nikki Pradhan, while the responsibility for building the attacks will rest on the shoulders of Sushila Chanu, Neha Goyal, Navjot Kaur, Sonika, Jyoti , Nisha and Monika.
Salima Tete, who has been in great form and known for exciting runs down the flanks, will have to play the connecting role.
Responsibility for scoring goals rests with experienced Vandana KatariyaLalremsiami, Navneet Kaur and Sharmila Devi.
Even though it is a well-oiled squad, India will certainly miss Rani’s experience and services.
India finished eighth in the latest edition in 2018, but they are hoping for their first podium finish in this edition of the tournament and given their form and recent results it is certainly not impossible.
And, the head coach of India Janekke Schopman knows the potential of its players.
“If we really play to our potential, we play as we know we can consistently, then anything is possible. Women’s hockey is very tight at the moment, anyone can beat anyone,” Schopman had said.
“(But) consistency is a big focus. If we can consistently play well, top-4, and who knows, a podium at the World Cup is a possibility.
“I think we have great potential and if we really play to our potential, we’re a tough team to beat,” said the 45-year-old.
England’s best result at the World Cup is a bronze medal in the 2010 edition in Rosario, Argentina. They also finished fourth in Sydney in 1990.
There is hardly anything to distinguish between the two sides. England is fourth in the world rankings, while India is sixth.
After England, India will face China on July 5, followed by their last group match against New Zealand on July 7.
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