Amstelveen: A lackluster Indian women’s hockey team must check all the boxes against New Zealand in the final Pool B game to secure a direct place in the quarter-finals. FIH World Cup, here on Thursday.
The Indians, who took a historic fourth place at the Olympics last year, drew 1-1 against the bronze medalist Tokyo, England and China in their first two group matches.
The SavitaThe -led side is currently third in Pool B with two points less than China and league-leader New Zealand, who defeated England 3-1 on Tuesday.
“New Zealand will be a difficult team to play against. They are very dangerous in their counterattack and we will have to be ready for that, on the ball we have to play to our strengths,” head coach Janneke Schopman said.
According to the tournament format, the 16 teams are divided into four pools of four teams each. The top four teams from each pool qualify directly for the quarter-finals, while the second and third-placed teams participate in the crossovers.
The winner of the crossover matches seizes the remaining four quarter-finals. So India would look for an outright win against New Zealand and hope for a Chinese draw or a loss against England to top Pool B.
But given the way they played in the first two games, it would be easier said than done.
While India’s defense impressed in both matches and England denied a single penalty corner in the first match, it was the performance of the attacker and midfield that left something to be desired.
Subject to Vandana Katariyawho scored India’s two goals, no other striker to date could live up to expectations, with players like Lalremsiami, Sharmila Devi and Navneet Kaur making a sad figure.
It’s not that the Indians didn’t create opportunities, but they failed to seize those opportunities.
The midfield also needs to improve their game as it looked rusty against China.
Converting penalty corners is also a concern for Schopman as India took advantage of just two of the 12 points earned in two games, as well as both goals coming indirectly from Vandana’s sticks.
While against England Vandana scored from a rebound, against China she got a beautiful deflection to Gurjit’s flick to level India.
“I thought we started well against a tight Chinese defense. We were unlucky not to score at the beginning and a moment of not paying attention defensively resulted in a goal against,” said Schopman.
“After that we struggled a bit, but when we found the space we were able to play some good combinations.”
“The PC goal was great, but it felt like we forgot to push through after that with China being more aggressive in the final phase.
“We are where we are, but of course we would have liked more points. Our pool is incredibly strong and small things will make all the difference,” she added.
Gurjit Kaur also needs to hone her skills and increase her conversion rate if India is to get far in the tournament.
“We expected China to put up a strong fight, having played against them a few times in recent months. But I’m happy that our team fought to the end and got a goal back to tie the game against a strong defensive unit.
“We need to take more chances, but we are happy to take another important point out of the game,” said vice-captain Deep Grace Ekka.
In terms of the rankings, there is hardly anything to separate the two sides as New Zealand is in eighth place, while India is one rung lower.
“New Zealand has been in good shape so far in this tournament. We will watch videos to study the opposition and we hope we are prepared to go into the match.
“It’s going to be a tough game, but we hope we can get a win in our corner to climb up the pool table,” Ekka added.
However, the Black Sticks women are said to be full of confidence after the win over England.
Both sides would have a good idea of the comparisons they need as China and England play earlier on Thursday.
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