With the top-four teams confirmed on expected lines, the final league matches at the women’s Asian Champions Trophy on Thursday in Ranchi will be more about deciding on the semifinal line-up and working out the niggles one last time before the knockout stages.
While a superior goal difference means India is assured of finishing on top of the table even with a draw or a loss against Korea in its final league outing, the host would be looking at nothing less than a win to keep its undefeated streak intact. The two previous games were both close affairs and despite coming out on the winning side, India would be looking to clean up its scoring and finishing.
Against Japan on Tuesday, India dominated play and possession but could not find the finishing touch despite having half a dozen chances and coach Janneke Schopman has been vocal about her annoyance with the team deserving but not scoring more goals. Korea has been inconsistent so far with an upset win against China offset by a draw against Malaysia – the only draw so far in the competition – and its defence has faltered when put under pressure. Korea has also scored the least of the top-four teams – five goals in four games – and it would be ideal for India to plug the scoring gaps before entering the business end of the competition.
Penalty corners have been another concern, although it has been so for every team here. India has only converted four of the 21 it has earned and only one of those has been direct. Korea isn’t much better, with four in 18, and the new, bouncy turf has come in for some criticism. On Wednesday, the Indian goalkeepers sweated on saving PCs and shootouts with coach Schopman putting both Savita and Bichu Devi through the grind in anticipation of tied scores in the semifinals.
With the 2-4 positions still open, a win for Korea – currently 3rd -- will help push it up the standings, depending on other results, even as defending champion Japan will be hoping to win against China to remain in second spot. Malaysia will take on Thailand in the other game on Thursday.
Thursday’s matches: Malaysia vs Thailand (4 pm), China vs Japan (6.15 pm), India vs Korea (8.30 pm).
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