A semifinal berth already secured, India would look to continue the momentum and notch up a hat-trick of wins when they take on lower-ranked South Africa in the FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup.
World number eight India are so far undefeated in Pool B with wins over Chile (3-1) and Asian Games nemesis Japan (2-1) and victory against the 20th ranked South Africa would enable them to top the pool, which means they won’t run into hosts Spain (7th ranked) in the semifinals. Besides India, Spain have also secured a semifinal spot from Pool A with two wins from as many games.
Two exciting days of #Hockey at the women FIH Hockey Nations Cup 2022 are done!
Here is how the Pools look after the first 8 games.
— International Hockey Federation (@FIH_Hockey) December 12, 2022
While Ireland, Italy and Korea all have chances to grab the second semifinal spot from Pool A, Chile and Japan will play in a winner-takes-all match in Pool B on Wednesday. The eight-team tournament is important for India as it brings in a system of promotion-relegation, where the champions will be promoted to the 2023-24 FIH Hockey Women’s Pro League, a key event ahead of next year’s Asian Games and 2024 Paris Olympics.
The Indian women finished a creditable third in their debut Pro League campaign earlier this year.
The good thing about India’s campaign here so far is that they have had five different goal scorers — Sangita Kumari, Sonika, Navneet Kaur, Salima Tete, Beauty Dungdung (first international goal) — in the two matches. The Indian midfield and forwardline have been impressive in both the matches.
The likes of Salima Tete, Monika, Neha Goyal, Sonika and Navjot Kaur have held the midfield together. They played with a good structure and rotated the ball with precision to find the gaps and created chances. The forwardline too has shone bright with Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur, Sangita Kumari and Beauty Dungdung all living up to their billings.
The defence under the watch of Gurjit Kaur and vice-captain Deep Grace Ekka has occasionally slipped but skipper Savita Punia has been a rock under the goal post. But, penalty corner conversion remains a big worry for India’s chief coach Janneke Schopman.
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India got as many as nine penalty corners against Japan on Monday but dragflicker Gurjit cut a sorry figure as the side failed to convert a single chance. And come Wednesday, the Indians would be looking to address their grey areas before the business end of the tournament. The semifinals will be played on Friday with the final scheduled for Saturday.