The Savita Punia-led Indian women’s hockey team will have an eye on the Hockey Pro League qualification as the side open its campaign against Chile in the Nation’s Cup here on Sunday.
The eight-team tournament brings in a system of promotion-relegation, where the champions will be promoted to the 2023-24 FIH Hockey Women’s Pro League, a key tournament ahead of the upcoming Asian Games next year and the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“It will be crucial for us to start on a winning note. This is an important tournament for us and starting well will help us gain the right momentum,” Savita, who was awarded the FIH women’s goalkeeper of the year for 2021-22, said.
India are grouped in Pool B along with Chile, Japan and South Africa. The other teams in the fray are Ireland, Italy, Korea and Spain, who are grouped in Pool A.
“Every match in this tournament will be hard-fought as every single team would want to make it to the FIH Hockey Pro League.
“We can’t take any team lightly and as I said, the focus will be on ourselves and the process we have been practicing,” Savita said.
Riding on the confidence from a good show at the CWG, where the team bagged a bronze medal, India will be vying to start their campaign with a win. India played four practice matches -- three against Spain and one against Ireland -- in the build-up to the tournament.
“Our focus will be on ourselves and ensuring we play to our potential. In the match against Ireland, we had goals from Beauty Dungdung, Neha, Gurjit, Sangita and Navneet. It’s always a good sign to have different goal scorers and shows the variety we bring in our attack,” she added.
In their second pool B match on December 12, India will take on their Asian nemesis Japan, against whom they lost the 2018 Asian Games final.
In their concluding league match on December 14, they will play South Africa while the knockout matches will be played on December 16 and 17.
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