Hockey: Indian women face must-win game against Ireland
(Sourced from PTI)
Staring at an early exit after three consecutive losses, the Indian women's hockey team can't settle for anything less than a victory against Ireland in their penultimate pool match in Tokyo on Friday to keep their quarterfinal hopes alive in Olympics. But after three morale-shattering defeats, it would be a Herculean task for Indians to outplay a higher-ranked side like world number 7 Ireland.
India are currently placed fifth in six-team Pool A, just below Ireland who have registered one win and two losses from their three games. India and South Africa are yet to open their accounts. The top four teams from each pool will qualify for the knockout stage. The road ahead is tough for India as they would need to win their remaining two games.
The remaining two games are against Ireland and South Africa (on Saturday). They would need to improve their goal difference to be on the safe side. They would also need favorable results from other games and hope for a Great Britain victory over Ireland on Saturday. But these equations will come into the picture only if India can beat Ireland on Friday.
So, it would be a do-or-die match for the Sjoerd Marijne-coached team and he would desperately hope for a better showing from his players against Ireland. India, which are featuring in consecutive Olympics in women's hockey, finished a lowly 12th in the Rio Games and another heartbreak here won't do any good for the sport in the country.
In their first three games, India lost 1-5 to world number 1 Netherlands, 0-2 to Germany before suffering a 1-4 defeat at the hands of defending champions Great Britain. India created chances in all three games but the misfiring forward line disappointed the team.
A livid Marijne described the 1-4 loss to Great Britain as his side's "worst match" of the games and lambasted the players for failing to raise their game in the crucial match. But Marijne insisted that they still have a chance of progressing to the knockout round. "There are still six points to get and that can be enough for the quarters," he said.
Though ranked below Ireland, world number 11 India can beat Ireland and have beaten them in the past as well. In February 2019, India defeated Ireland 3-0 and drew 1-1 against the same opponents in a two-match series during a tour of Spain.