Women’s Hockey World Cup: India loses to Ireland in shootout

Ireland made it to its first ever World Cup semifinals, coming into the tournament as the second-lowest ranked team in it.

Neither team was able to break the deadlock in the hour and the match went into a penalty shootout.   -  AP

India’s dream of breaking its 44-year-old last four jinx was shattered as Ireland registered a 3-1 win in the penalty shootout, in the quarterfinal of the women’s hockey World Cup here on Thursday.

Poorly executed penalties cost India dearly. Skipper Rani Rampal, Monika and Navjot Kaur failed to get past Irish goalie Ayeisha McFerran. Reena Khokhar was the only scorer for India in the shootout.

India's goalkeeper Savita Punia produced two saves off the first two penalties to keep her team in the hunt. But it was not enough as Ireland scored through Roisin Upton, Alison Meeke and Chloe Watkins to reach its maiden World Cup semi-final. It was India’s second defeat to world no. 16 Ireland in the tournament after the 0-1 loss at the pool stages.

The only time India had managed to enter the semi-finals of the show-piece 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.

In the first quarter, India and Ireland failed to create any clear-cut scoring opportunities. Both the teams managed a few circle penetrations in the opening 15 minutes, but their defences held fort.

Ireland had the first scoring opportunity in the 23rd minute when Anna O’Flanagan’s deflection off Kathryn Mullan’s pass was saved by a diving Savita.

Three minutes later, India captain Rani Rampal shot wide from close range after a fine one-two with Vandana Katariya. 

It was a dull third quarter as the play was mostly centred around the edges of both the ends. The Indians and Irish both tried hard but they failed to get a single shot on each other’s goal in the third quarter.

Desperate to break the deadlock, the Indians came out with more purpose in the final quarter and applied pressure on the Irish defence with constant forays into the circle. They were almost immediately rewarded when they secured the first and only penalty corner of the match in the 49th minute. But India couldn't convert the nest chance it had in the game, as Rani’s feeble shot was easily kept out by McFerran.

At the end of the four quarters, the teams were still level and the game went into penalty shootout. Both India and Ireland missed their first two penalties, courtesy of some good goalkeeping from Savita and McFerran. Roison Upton put Ireland in the lead with a well-taken penalty. Navjot Kaur couldn't level the score for India as McFerran made a fantastic save off her shot.

The confidence Alison Meeke showed to tuck the ball into the goal through Savita's legs, was symbolic of the spirit Ireland has showed throughout the tournament to come in as the second-lowest ranked team and make it to the semifinals.

Reena Khokhar scored one to keep India alive, but all it needed was a goal  from Chloe Watkins - scored just before the penalty clock ran out - to send Ireland into its first ever World Cup semifinals.

Ireland will face Spain in the semifinals.