Women's Hockey World Cup: India eyes semis in quarterfinal clash against Ireland

If India manages to beat Ireland, it would ensure it only its second appearance in the World Cup last-four.

Its erratic campaign back on track, the Indian women’s hockey team would now be aiming to secure its first World Cup semifinal spot in 44 years.   -  Getty Images

Its erratic campaign back on track, the Indian women’s hockey team would now be aiming to secure its first World Cup semifinal spot in 44 years by extracting revenge from giant-killer Ireland in the last-eight stage, here, on Thursday.

India registered its first win of the tournament by sailing past Italy in a quarterfinal playoff on Tuesday night and if it manages to beat Ireland, it would ensure it only its second appearance in the World Cup last-four.

The only time India had managed to enter the semifinals of the showpiece event was back in 1974 in Mandelieu, France, where it, eventually, finished fourth. In the last edition of the tournament in Rosario, Argentina, India had finished a disappointing eighth.

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Having come second best in its last two meetings, it would be quite a task for the Indians to beat Ireland. The Irish have been in ominous form having topped Pool B ahead of higher-ranked USA and India.

World No.16 Ireland has already scripted history of sorts by outclassing USA 3-1 and India 1-0 before slumping to a 0-1 defeat against host England. But, it still managed to secure its maiden World Cup quarterfinal berth.

India, on the other hand, had to slog it out to make it to the quarterfinals, having drawn 1-1 against England and USA, respectively, and losing 0-1 to Ireland. The Indians would take heart from the 3-0 win over lower-ranked Italy in the cross-over match.

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The Rani Rampal-led side re-discovered its scoring prowess to finally end Italy’s World Cup adventure through a field strike from Lalremsiami (20th minute) and two penalty corner goals from Neha Goyal (45th) and Vandana Katariya (55th) to register an emphatic win.

The Indians were brilliant with their first touch control and finishing last night, and come Thursday, the side would look for an encore to outwit the gutsy Irish.

But, it won’t be easy as it is the same Irish side, which beat them in the last two meetings — 2-1 in the Hockey World League semifinals in Johannesburg last year and then, here, in the pool stages.

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The Irish would definitely come out as a confident unit, but India would be banking on its new-found confidence. The Indian defence, led by talismanic Savita under the bar, has produced a stellar performance throughout the tournament.

It was the forward-line which was lacking the sting, but Tuesday night’s performance would do a world of good for the strikers’ confidence.

Skipper Rani feels that India has gained confidence as the tournament has progressed and it would look to carry that forward going into the business end of the event.

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“Early in the tournament, we didn’t do the one thing we needed to do — score goals. But, we have found the net now and we can definitely push on with our journey. We do not see that journey ending tomorrow,” she said.

It promises to be an exciting encounter as Ireland has already proved that it is no pushover and the outcome of the match will eventually depend on controlling the nerves at crucial stages. Meanwhile, in the other quarterfinal of the day, the mighty Netherlands will take on host England.