The jinx continues

London calling… the victorious South African women's team after defeating India in the final of the Olympic qualifier.-R.V. MOORTHY

The Indian women's team failed to qualify for the London Olympics not because of any bad luck, but because of its lack of determination and application. Over to Y. B. Sarangi.

It was a road not taken for the last 32 years. After the 1980 Moscow Olympics, where the Indian women's hockey team had made its only appearance at the Games and had finished fourth among six countries, India had not got such a fabulous opportunity to gain entry to the mega event. Indian women's attempts to qualify for the Olympics seemed to be jinxed all these years. And it continues to be so. This time the ticket to the London Olympics eluded them not because of any bad luck, but due to their lack of determination and application.

The team had all the facilities at its disposal, the preparation was well planned and it enjoyed the rare privilege of playing at home. However, India's approach lacked conviction. The shaky start against a lowly Ukraine, where the host was held 1-1, said it all. The result was a reflection of the players' temperament and inconsistency.

India suffered because of its poor co-ordination. The strikers were indecisive in finishing off moves and this dented India's confidence. Besides, the hamstring injury to the agile left-winger Anuradha Devi midway through the tournament adversely affected India. She returned for the last two matches, including the final, but was not able to regain her touch.

Y. Soundarya struck only three goals but was India's most successful forward. It spoke of the Indian strikers' inability to score field goals. The host's tentativeness while taking penalty corners also came to the fore. Of the six goals that India scored from short corners, only one came off a drag-flick. To make matters worse for India, its defence unnecessarily forced itself on the rival forwards to lose possession.

Shaky start… India's Y. Soundarya scores against Ukraine. The match, which ended in a 1-1 draw, reflected the home team's poor temperament and it ultimately failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Before the tournament, India's coach C. R. Kumar had warned his players about slow starts. And he continued to remind the team of its fundamental problem. “We have to play aggressively; we cannot be slow starters and be nervous. A team commits mistakes when it is nervous. There is no room for errors,” the coach said after India's 4-1 win over Canada.

Sadly, the players failed to learn. The 2-5 loss to South Africa put India in a tight spot with the home team needing nothing less than a win in its last league engagement against Italy to make the final.

India barely managed to reach the summit clash after posting a 1-0 victory against Italy, but the team needed to put up a far better showing in order to defeat South Africa in the final.

India, however, disappointed the home crowd with a below par performance. Though India (No. 13) is ranked only one place below South Africa (No. 12), the difference in class between the two teams was vast. India conceded a fourth-minute goal and that turned out to be a big setback. South Africa walked out deserving winner with a 3-1 verdict and booked its ticket to the London Olympics.

“We gave away a goal (the first) at a wrong time. Had we not conceded that goal, things would have been different. We could not play in full flow and struggled to find the right combination,” said India captain Asunta Lakra.

“We had worked hard for a year for this final....We will not harass ourselves that our dream was not achieved. Rather, we will learn from this defeat and find the way to go forward,” she added.