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Indian women's hockey team eyes continental supremacy with second Asian Games gold

Going by form and rankings, the Indians are considered title favourites but in Japan, world No.11 China, and world No.12 Korea, some tough opponents await them on their way to ultimate glory

PTI Hangzhou Published 26.09.23, 02:32 PM
Representational picture.

Representational picture. File picture

Top-ranked India will look to assert their continental supremacy with a second women's hockey gold in the Asian Games when they open their campaign against lowly Singapore here on Wednesday.

Placed seventh in the world, India are the top-ranked team in the competition ahead of defending champions and world No.10 Japan.


The Savita Punia-led side would look for redemption when it opens its campaign against Singapore in the Pool A match.

Going by form and rankings, the Indians are considered title favourites but in Japan, world No.11 China, and world No.12 Korea, some tough opponents await them on their way to ultimate glory.

But since their historic fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics, the Indian women are on a high under chief coach Janneke Schopman and would be gunning for gold, which will give them a direct ticket to Paris in the ongoing Games.

Under Schopman and Savita's leadership, India have only upped their game in the recent past but it won't be easy and they will have to take the pressure aspect in their stride to emerge triumphant here.

"The team is in great shape heading into our first match against Singapore, we had identified areas of improvement and worked on it in the build-up to the Asian Games. The plan is to start strong and take charge of our games from the start whistle and finish as table toppers," coach Schopman said.

The road to semifinals would be a bit easier for the Indian women as they are grouped with relatively weaker opponents in Pool A consisting of Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Korea.

Going by world stature, India and Korea are expected to qualify for the semifinal from Pool A, but it won't be smooth sailing beyond that.

Pool B consists of China, Japan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Thailand.

The team selection was on expected lines with chief coach Schopman relying on her tried and tested players.

While the Indian goal will be under the watchful eyes of skipper Savita and Bichu Devi Kharibam, the defence will be manned by vice-captain Deep Grace Ekka, Sushila Chanu and Nikki Pradhan among others.

India boast of a strong forwardline in Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur, Vandana Katariya, Udita and Sangita Kumari while the midfield will be controlled by Neha, Nisha, Salima Tete and Ishika Chaudhary among others.

While India's recent results against strong teams like Australia, England and Germany were not up to the mark, the Savita-led side would look to apply the lessons learnt from those outings in the Asian Games.

After Singapore, the Indian women will take on Malaysia on September 29, Korea (October 1) and Hong Kong (October 3).

While the Indians are expected to have it easy in the pool stage, they are expected to run into either Japan or China in the semifinals, which will definitely test their character and fitness.

The Indian women have so far won six medals in the Asian Games (one gold, two silver and three bronze) and would be hoping to better their yellow metal count.

Since 2014, India faced Singapore thrice and won each time, with their most recent victory coming during the women's Asia Cup last year.

Captain Savita is clear about the team's goal -- win a gold here and qualify for next year's Olympics.

"We have a great opportunity to secure qualification for the Paris Olympics by winning the gold medal after a long wait," she said.

"We have been preparing accordingly, and our goal is to go match by match all the way to the final."

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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