Unimpressive India blanks Thailand to book SF spot

Rani Rampal scored a hat-trick, while Monika and Navjot Kaur got themselves on the score sheet.

Indian women celebrate after scoring a goal against Thailand in the Pool B match on Monday.   -  PTI

For more than 30 minutes, Thailand did the unthinkable — it kept the Indian women’s hockey team from scoring in its last Pool B match.

In the end, the Indians struck four goals in the final quarter for a 5-0 win, but it was far from the dominant form the team had displayed so far in the tournament.

As it happened

Coach Sjoerd Marijne couldn’t care less. “You always want to score 15-20 goals but you also know you have to play the semifinals and the players are also protecting themselves.

“Let’s not talk about concerns on the basis of this match. We play a match which is not important, we did a lot of things wrong, the concentration level was not so high because we are busy with the semis,” he said categorically.

Asian Games Full Coverage

It made sense but with the match scheduled in extreme heat and humidity and the girls unwilling to exert themselves, it was an indifferent India that took to the field.

There was hardly any movement from the players and whatever little moves the team created were wasted early on. Against a team ranked 28th in the world and largely disconnected and clueless, there were six penalty corners but little power in the flicks. Thailand goalkeeper Alisa Narueangram also brought off some impressive saves.

“You have to be realistic. What is more important — winning 20-0 with a beautiful game or playing the semifinals? I think the second. If we make 20 goals today and some girls get hit or get pain and cannot play the semis, would that be ok?” Marijne asked.

The good news for India was the return of captain Rani Rampal after missing the previous two games as a precaution against injury. “She must come in the rhythm for the semis and that’s why she played today and also scored thrice. Her return will make us stronger. The confidence is high from girls and we are ready for the semis,” Marijne said.

Monika and Navjot Kaur scored the other two goals. India would take on China in the semifinals.