India women's hockey team claim Asia Cup 2017

Wednesday 08th November 2017 05:59 EST

India became continental champions after a vast gap of 13 years, as the country's women's hockey team edged past China to clinch the Asia Cup title, automatically securing a spot in next year's hockey World Cup. Goalkeeper Savita was undoubtedly the shootout star, producing a brilliant save at Kakamigahara Kawasaki Stadium in Japan. After the teams were locked 1-1 in regulation time, skipper Rani Rampal converted the final attempt for the Indians to ensure a 5-4 win. India had failed to qualify for the last World Cup in the Netherlands, finishing ninth in the 2010 edition in Argentina.

Rani found herself on target twice, while Monica, Lilima Minz, and Navjot Kaur also found the target in the shootout. Navjot had given Indians the lead in the 25th minute, however, China equalised through a penalty corner conversion by Tiantian Luo in the 47th minute. Both teams played an attacking game, but the first quarter ended goalless. Navjot almost scored a field goal in the 17th minute, but her diving effort was block. India broke the deadlock when Navneet Kaur and Rani played a neat 1-2 before penetrating the circle, allowing Navjot to score from a clear shot. Meanwhile, China went all out in search of the equaliser but the Indian defence held firm. India tried to get the second goal in the third quarter, which remained elusive. The final quarter was a tense affair. China won a penalty corner after a successful video referral, and Tiantian Luo found the bottom right corner of the post to level matters.

“We are all extremely happy that we won the Asia Cup and have earned qualification for next year's World Cup on merit. We had a lot of young players in the team who showed great spirit in playing on such a big platform. The team gave a good fight to China. It was a high level competition and we did not drop our level at any point in the game,” Rani said. The forward added, “Hopefully we will carry this confidence and motivation into the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.” The team had finished on the eighth position among 10 teams at the Hockey World League Semifinals in July. She said they found the team unacceptable. “We were not happy with our performance in Johannesburg at the World League Semi-Finals and right then the team had decided that we need to start winning in order to gain that confidence to perform well in top tournaments.”

India had last won the women's Asia Cup in 2004, beating Japan 1-0. “We worked a lot on creating penalty corners and Gurjit worked hard on converting them during our camps. We were also well prepared for a shootout situation as we were anticipating the knockouts to end in shootouts. All the preparation helped us,” Rani said.

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