Indian women’s hockey team ready for Korean challenge

The team, led by defender Sunita Lakra, remains unbeaten in the tournament, having won against Japan (4-1), China (3-1) and Malaysia (3-2).

While playing the World No.9 side in its home ground will be a challenging affair for the Indian team, it will serve as an ideal preparation for the final on Sunday. (File Photo)   -  PTI

The Indian women’s hockey team will take on host Korea in its last round-robin match at the 5th Women’s Asian Champions Trophy, here, on Saturday.

The team, led by defender Sunita Lakra, remains unbeaten in the tournament, having won against Japan (4-1), China (3-1) and Malaysia (3-2).

While playing the World No.9 side in its home ground will be a challenging affair for the Indian team, it will serve as an ideal preparation for the final on Sunday, where it will play Korea, which has won two matches (3-1 against Malaysia, 3-1 against China) and drawn one (1-1 against Japan) in the round-robin stage.

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“Korea is a good team, but our girls have played this tournament with a lot of confidence. We are not so bothered about this being their home ground, but want to just focus on ourselves and carry forward the good momentum,” stated chief coach Sjoerd Marijne.

The team has played this tournament with aggression and has showcased impressive attack. However, playing a highly defensive team like Korea, India needs to ensure it doesn’t make errors.

“The Koreans like to play high press. It will be important for us to not let that pressure affect our game and we need to ensure we don’t make mistakes in our own half. Besides this, we will need to move the ball fast to create space,” added the chief coach on the eve of the match.

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While India was lethal against Japan and a higher ranked China, having taken a strong lead at the start of the match, India dropped its level against Malaysia.

Marijne said, “It is not always easy to play against a team who play with 11 players in their circle. To make the game favourable to us, we need to score more PCs and ensure we don’t miss easy goals. When that doesn’t happen, the level starts dropping and we made some silly mistakes. However, what is important is, we won that match.”

On playing Korea on Saturday, as well as on Sunday in the final, Marijne believes that it will be important to be smart in how it plays and not exhaust itself ahead of the title round.

“This match will give us a good understanding of how they play and what changes we need to make ahead of the final. We have to be smart in the way we play and ensure we don’t exhaust ourselves too much,” opined the chief coach.