Hockey

Skipper Rani confident of making the World Cup cut at Johannesburg

Ready to roll: The Indian women hope to clinch a World Cup in the HWL Semifinal in Johannesburg.

Ready to roll: The Indian women hope to clinch a World Cup in the HWL Semifinal in Johannesburg.  

Indian women look to repeat Antwerp heroics

Less than a week after the men finished a disappointing sixth at the Hockey World League Semifinal in London, the Indian women’s hockey team leaves for Johannesburg to try and better that.

They need to, given that the men did not have anything at stake while the girls would be battling for a World Cup spot. A top-five finish would ensure a berth even though there remains the Asia Cup later this year.

“But if we qualify from here, there will be no pressure at the Asia Cup. We are fairly confident of making the cut at Johannesburg,” captain Rani Rampal told The Hindu on the eve of the team’s departure.

“We were not expected to, but qualified for the Olympics two years back in Antwerp. We can do it again. Also, we have a lot of youngsters in the side and are constantly trying to motivate them by giving our own example and the Olympics experience. It’s a high that cannot be explained. So the younger players are excited to do well and prove a point,” she added.

It is this belief and excitement that coach Sjoerd Marijne will be counting on when India takes on host South Africa in its opening game on July 8. Chile, USA and Argentina are the other teams in the pool and both the girls and the coach believe it isn’t impossible to win against two of those. In fact, India defeated Chile in the HWL Round 2 this year.

“I can do all kinds of predictions but our focus right now is only on South Africa,” Marijne said.

While the skills are there, and the girls are becoming fitter, the two areas he is concerned about are tactical awareness and self-belief.

“Every country has its culture and I think the things we are trying to change here are really deep-rooted. There is a lot of respect for others in India, and that’s a good thing, but you can also give too much respect and that’s what the girls are doing.

“We speak a lot about that but I know it cannot be changed overnight. The best thing to do is win against higher-ranked teams” said Marijne.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 4:32:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/hockey/skipper-rani-confident-of-making-the-world-cup-cut-at-johannesburg/article19180345.ece

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