Women's Hockey WC: India eye win against NZ to stay in hunt for direct QF spot
Indian women's hockey team

Amstelveen: A lacklustre Indian women’s hockey team need to tick all boxes against New Zealand in its final Pool B match to seal a direct quarterfinal place in the FIH World Cup, here on Thursday.

The Indians, who achieved a historic fourth place finish in last year’s Olympics, drew 1-1 against Tokyo bronze medallist England and China in their first two pool matches.

The Savita-led side is currently placed third in Pool B with two points below China and leaders New Zealand, who defeated England 3-1 on Tuesday.

“New Zealand will be a tough team to play. They are very dangerous in their counter-attack and we will have to be ready for that, on the ball we have to play to our strengths,” chief coach Janneke Schopman said.

According to the tournament format, the 16 teams are divided in four pools of four teams each.The top four sides from each pool will directly qualify for the quarterfinals, while the second and third placed teams will feature in the crossovers.

The winner of the cross over matches will grab the remaining four quarterfinal spots. 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 going by the way they played in the first two matches, it would be easier said than done.

While the Indian defence has impressed in both the matches, denying England a single penalty corner in the first game, it is the performance of the forwardline and midfield which was found wanting.

Barring Vandana Katariya, who scored India’s two goals, no other striker could live upto expectations so far with the likes of Lalremsiami, Sharmila Devi and Navneet Kaur cutting a sorry figure.

It is not that the Indians didn’t create chances, but they failed to grab those opportunities.

The midfield too needs to raise their game as it looked rusty against China.

Penalty corner conversion is also an area of concern for Schopman as India made use of just two out of the 12 earned in two games, and that too both the goals coming through indirectly from the sticks of Vandana.

While against England, Vandana scored from a rebound, against China she got a beautiful deflection to Gurjit’s flick to draw India level.

“I thought we started well against a tight Chinese defense. We were unlucky to not score early on and one moment of not paying attention defensively resulted in us conceding a goal,” Schopman said.

“After that we struggled for a bit but when we found the space, we were able to play some good combinations.”

“The PC goal was great but felt like we forgot to push through after that with China being more aggressive in the end phase.

“We are where we are but obviously, we would have liked to have more points. Our pool is incredibly tough and small things will make the difference,” she added.

Gurjit Kaur too needs to polish her skills and raise her conversion rate if India have to progress far in the tournament.

“We expected China to put up a strong fight, having played them a couple of times in the last few months. But I am glad that our team fought till the end, and managed to get a goal back to draw the match against a strong defensive unit.

“We need to convert more chances, but we are glad to get another important point from the match,” vice-captain Deep Grace Ekka said.

In terms of rankings, there is hardly anything to separate the two sides as New Zealand are placed eighth while India are a rung below.

“New Zealand have been in good form in this tournament so far. We will be watching videos to study the opposition and we hope to be prepared going into the contest.

“It will be a tough game, but we hope we can get a win in our corner to climb up in the pool table,” Ekka added.

The Black Sticks women, however, would be brimming with confidence after the win over England.

Both the sides would have a fair idea about the equations they need as China and England play earlier on Thursday.

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