Indians Start the FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup with Payback in Mind
On July 3, the Indian women’s hockey team will kick off their FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup campaign in the Netherlands and Spain.
India’s FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup campaign will kick off with an emotional undercurrent. On July 3, Sunday, they face England in their first Pool B match at the Wagener Stadium in Amstelveen, the Netherlands. Spain and the Netherlands are co-hosting the World Cup, with India scheduled to play all of their group matches in Amstelveen.
India would be eager to settle their differences with England. The British team shattered their bronze medal hopes at last year’s Olympics in Tokyo. India lost 3-4 to Great Britain in the Games’ third-place playoff, leaving the players distraught.
“Even though we would be focused on our own performance as a team, England and India have faced off in some very close encounters and undoubtedly a rivalry has developed over the last three-four years in particular,” skipper Savita Punia said of the opener against England.
“Some of our players want to take on their goalkeeper, Maddie Hinge, who has been outstanding at the net. They also have some very experienced players on their team, including Laura Unsworth, Giselle Ansley, Captain Hollie Pearne-Webb, and Lily Owsley, who will bring their “A” game against us “She continued.
Almost a year after narrowly missing out on bronze, the team has regrouped under a new coach. They enter the July 1-17 tournament with a lot of confidence after finishing third in their first FIH Pro League match. India’s best World Cup performance was a fourth-place finish in the inaugural tournament in 1974, and this team appears to be more than capable.
In May, the Indian women’s team achieved its highest-ever world ranking, sixth place, and gave some top teams a run for their money at the Pro League, finishing on the podium ahead of teams such as Belgium, Australia, and England. Punia, who took over as captain from Rani Rampal, has been just as inspiring as the latter, who is out with a hamstring injury. Punia has also been on fire under the bar.
Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur, Udita and Nikki Pradhan will marshal India’s backline, while Sushila Chanu, Neha Goyal, Navjot Kaur, Sonika, Jyoti, Nisha, and Monika will be in charge of building attacks. Salima Tete, who has been in excellent form, will play the connecting role and is equally capable of tearing down the flanks. Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur, and Sharmila Devi will be tasked with scoring goals.
On paper, the squad is well-oiled and has proven its worth over the last three months or so. India finished eighth in the 2018 World Cup, but they are confident, or rather, gunning for a podium finish this time around. Janekke Schopman, the team’s head coach, recognizes her players’ potential and strives for nothing less.
“Anything is possible if we truly play to our potential and consistently play the way we know we can,” Schopman said. “Women’s hockey is very tight right now; anyone can beat anyone,” she added. “However, consistency is an important consideration. If we can play consistently well, we could finish in the top four, and who knows, maybe even on the World Cup podium.
“I believe we have great potential, and if we play to that potential, we will be a difficult team to beat,” the 45-year-old said.
England, their first opponent, is ranked fourth in the world. Their best World Cup result was a bronze medal in Rosario, Argentina, in 2010. Following their match against England, India will face China on June 5, followed by their final pool match against New Zealand on July 7.
POOL MATCHES IN INDIA
- MATCH 1 (July 3): India vs. England – 8:00 p.m. IST at Wagener Stadium in Amstelveen, the Netherlands
- MATCH 2 (July 5): India vs. China – 8:00 p.m. IST at Wagener Stadium in Amstelveen, the Netherlands
- MATCH 3 (July 7): India vs. New Zealand at 11:00 p.m. IST at Wagener Stadium in Amstelveen, the Netherlands.
- Savita Punia (C) and Bichu Devi Kharibam are the goalkeepers.
- Deep Grace Ekka (VC), Gurjit Kaur, Nikki Pradhan, and Udita are the defenders.
- Nisha and Sushila are midfielders. Monika, Neha, Jyoti, Navjot Kaur, Sonika, and Salima Tete
- Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur, and Sharmila Devi are the forwards.
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