Indian eves hopes of earning a berth in next year’s World Cup came down crashing after they lost 1-2 to defending champions Korea in the semi-final of the eighth women’s Asia Cup hockey tournament in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.
The Koreans scored two early goals through Cheon Seul Ki (2nd minute) and Cheon Eun Bi Min (9th) to stun the Indians.
India tried hard to make a comeback in the second half and pulled through Ritu Rani’s goal in the 41st minute, but the Koreans did just enough to hold on to their slender lead.
The Indians, who needed to win the Asia Cup to qualify for next year’s World Cup to be held at The Hague, Netherlands, will now play China in the bronze medal play-off match tomorrow.
Korea will play Japan, who defeated China 4-1 in the other semifinal, in the summit clash.
Starting as favourites, the Koreans, who had scored 31 goals in their three group matches, went on the offensive from the onset and shocked India by pumping in two goals through penalty corners in the first 10 minutes.
It took just two minutes for Korea to surge ahead when Cheon Seul Ki, a veteran of 71 international matches and one of the best dragflickers in Asia, converted their first penalty corner.
Seven minutes later Korea doubled their lead through Cheon Eun Bi who made no mistake from another penalty corner.
Stunned by two early goals, the Indians failed to get their acts together in the first half as Korea controlled the proceedings to go into the breather with their lead intact.
But India regrouped themselves at the break and looked a completely different side after the change of ends.
Knowing very well that one more goal from Korea will take them out of the contest, the Indians played cautiously but pressed for attacks when opportunities came their way.
The Indian girls’ efforts bore fruit when Ritu Tani pulled one back, converting a penalty corner in the 41st minute to make a contest out of the match.
Thereafter, India went all out in search of the equaliser but the Korean defenders stood tall to deny any more threat to their citadel.