Jakarta: Former champions India will have to improve on their game as they look to clinch the title at the 18th Asian Games and seal a Tokyo Olympics berth when the women’s hockey competition begins, here Sunday.
The Indian women’s team had won gold at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi and ended runners-up to South Korea in 1998 at Bangkok. They have managed to return with at least a medal in all the nine editions, including a bronze at the 2014 Incheon Asiad.
At World No.9, the Indian women’s team are the top-ranked side in the competition and will open their campaign against hosts Indonesia, ranked as low as 64, in a Pool B match here, Sunday. The other teams in the pool are title holders South Korea, Kazakhstan and Thailand.
Rani Rampal and Co have vowed that the only way to forget the World Cup failure will be by winning the gold. India lost in the quarterfinals to Ireland via penalty shootout and skipper Rani was one of those who missed her shot – the first time in her career.
The entire team had slipped into depression, but the team management, including scientific advisor Wayne Lombard, chose to show the players, through video footage, how excellent their defense was and how they executed most of the plans. It definitely had a positive effect on the morale of the team.
Winning gold will get us automatic qualification for the Tokyo Olympics. That is indeed a huge motivation for us
Deep Grace Ekka
“I feel that this is a great way to forget the World Cup disappointment. If I keep thinking about the World Cup, and it affects our performance at the Asian Games, then that resentment will stay in my head throughout my life,” said Rani, here Saturday.
Meanwhile experienced defender Odisha’s Deep Grace Ekka stated that the attackers will have to improve and convert the chances if India are to win gold.
“In the last couple of years, we have improved a lot as far as defensive formations are concerned. It shows in our world rank – which is a matter of great confidence going into the Asian Games,” Deep said.
“Especially, in defence, we are strong and have a good structure. This is our strength. But we, as a team, have a lot of areas to improve. We need to improve our finishing skills as Asian Games will be tough and there are strong teams like Korea, China and Japan,” added the Odisha player.
However, with both China and Japan in Pool A, India will not have to face either of them till the quarterfinals.
“The World Cup threw a lot of positives for us. We played well against higher-ranked teams. So, we are confident looking ahead,” Deep asserted.