The Indian women’s hockey team advanced to the final of the Hockey World League Round 2 competition in West Vancouver, Canada, with a convincing 4-0 victory against Belarus and with that, also booked itself a ticket to the HWL Round 3 to be held later this year. The HWL Round 3 is also a qualifying event for the 2018 World Cup.
This was the first major competition for the team under new coach Marijne Sjoerd and the players were relieved after the win. More so since it had managed only a narrow 1-0 victory against the same opponent in the league stage. “It has been a good experience. Tomorrow is now the final, there is one more step to go before we can relax. We have to win here to finish on a high even though the Round 3 qualification is sealed,” captain Rani Rampal told Sportstar after the game.
The 22-year old, who scored twice in the semifinal to be India's top-scorer in the event at the moment with three goals, admitted that the team learnt from its close finish in the league game. “We changed out plans a little and tried more in the attack while keeping ball possession. It worked. Will do the same in the finals,” she said, adding that the experience under Sjoerd has been rewarding so far. Gurjit Kaur scored two goals as well in the semifinal game.
“He has already taught us so many new and good things during the camp and here. We are all really excited to learn from him, he is a very good coach. He is very different form Neil (Hawgood, the former coach) but he is better as well,” Rani said about the Dutchman who took charge about a month ago and oversaw the team's preparations in Bhopal ahead of the tournament. In fact, the team won a five-match test series against Belarus 5-0 in Bhopal before leaving for Canada and Rani admitted that the experience helped the team a lot in knowing about their opposition.
Asked what exactly the new coach did differently, Rani said the emphasis was now more on attacking but also keeping patience. “We are playing a lot more attacking hockey now, there is more man-to-man marking during the game and he is trying to make us play more with patience, holding the ball and waiting for opportunities to score rather than go desperate and make mistakes. He is trying to take our Asian style and teach us how the Europeans play,” she explained.
About her own form, Rani was satisfied with her performance against Belarus. “After a long time today I played my actual game and I really enjoyed it a lot. It was great work by the entire team, everybody really worked hard to win this match and we are now excited for the final,” she said.
Rani had said before the match that converting set-pieces would be the key for India and the team executed that to perfection. India scored two of its goals through penalty strokes and one each through PC and a field goal in the semifinal. It would now take on Chile, who beat Uruguay 2-1 in the other semifinal, in the title clash. Both the finalists advance to the HWL Round 3 though is it yet to be decided which of the two Round 3 events (Brussels or Johannesburg) the teams would figure in.
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