National women’s hockey quarterfinals get underway from Thursday

The league matches were mostly one-sided, and form played true as the fancied teams made it to the last-eight stage without much fuss.

The 10th National senior women’s hockey championship reaches its business end when the quarterfinals begin on Thursday.   -  P. V. Sivakumar (Representative)

The 10th National senior women’s hockey championship reaches its business end when the quarterfinals begin on Thursday.

The league matches were mostly one-sided, and form played true as the fancied teams made it to the last-eight stage without much fuss.

The competitiveness which was missing in league matches will be there in plenty in the quarterfinal matches.

Last year’s runner-up Madhya Pradesh, which started its campaign with a draw against Odisha, has steadily improved with every match. Madhya Pradesh faces a tricky quarterfinal opponent in SAI. Karishma Singh, the tournament’s leading striker with eight goals, will be MP’s trump card.

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SAI, last year’s B-division champion, will be high on confidence after holding last year’s third placed Haryana to a thrilling draw in the last match. SAI has a few talented players like Dung Dung Betan in its ranks. SAI is a dangerous side when it is counter-attacking and MP will be wary of its opponent’s ability to switch modes.

Haryana will be up against Odisha, which finished second in Pool A. The Odisha side so far has been efficient without being spectacular. The team has punched above its weight and Haryana cannot afford to take Odisha lightly. Haryana needs to be more consistent in the midfield and has improve its defensive game. SAI exposed Haryana’s weakness and Odisha which plays a similar counter attacking game will fancy its chances.

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Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy and Punjab meet in  a high-octane quarterfinal. Both sides won their last league matches in style. However, Punjab which qualified from a tougher group which included Maharashtra and Chandigarh is a slight favourite.

Maharashtra, last year’s semifinalist, will be banking on its prolific scorer Rutuja when it meets Jharkhand which is essentially a junior squad. But Jharkhand beat stronger teams in its group to qualify and is capable of causing an upset. Chandigarh exposed a few chinks in Maharashtra’s game. Jharkhand will be looking to exploit that when the two sides meet.

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