Antwerp: Odds are stacked heavily against India as they face a huge task of going past the reigning world and Olympic champions the Netherlands in the quarter-finals of the women’s Hockey World League (HWL) Semi Final at the Brasschaat Municipal Park here on Tuesday.
World No.13 India finished fourth in the Pool B as they lost three matches against Belgium, New Zealand and Australia and won only against Poland, while No.1 the Netherlands topped the other pool of the 10-nation Olympic qualifying tournament following consecutive wins over South Korea, Italy, Japan and France.
India have to finish within the top three of the tournament will qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
The magnanimity of the challenge India face can be judged from the fact that the Dutch, led by two-time Player of the Year Maartje Paumen, have ruthlessly hammered 26 goals while conceding only one in their campaign so far. On the other hand, Ritu Rani-led India have scored five and conceded 11.
Centre-half Ritu is aware of the task that awaits her team but said they are more focused on giving their best shot. “Playing against the No.1 will surely be a challenge and we are looking forward to give our best shot. We are just keeping the rankings aside and working on various aspects of the game,” she said on Monday.
“We need to improve on our penalty corner conversion rate in order to give them a tough time. Also, we will try not to give away penalty corners easily as we did in the last matches. The girls are excited and ready to take on Netherlands tomorrow,” the 23-year-old said in a release.
Rani Rampal, who was named player of the tournament at the 2013 Junior World Cup, will be key for Mathias Ahrens-coached India as per as goal scoring is concerned while other frontliners Poonam Rani and Vandana Katariya will also have to rise to the task.
Ritu will have to marshall the midfield troop and she will require the timely effort of Liliy Chanu, Soundarya Yendala and Lilima Minz. The focus will also be on defenders Deep Ekka, Deepika and Sushila Chanu. The aggressive Dutch strikers will test Indian goalkeeper Savita’s mettle.
India coach Ahrens feels the team needs to keep ball possession and convert the penalty corners.
“The team has the potential and girls are getting better after the league stage. We need to focus on our ball possession and penalty corner conversion rate as the Netherlands is a tough team and it is not easy to tackle them,” the German said on Monday.
“The girls are willing and able to help each other out at any given point during the game and work as a unit and this is what makes us a better team than others. Hopefully we will be able to demonstrate a skilful game and play good hockey tomorrow.”