A buoyant women's hockey team from India will try to win the gold medal after a long wait of 36 years when they face Japan in the Asian Games final on Friday. India won the gold medal in 1982, the year in which women's hockey was included for the first time in the Asian Games program. They reached the final for the second time in 1998 when they lost 1-2 against South Korea. They won bronze medals in 2006 and 2014. The impressive Indian team remained unbeaten throughout the tournament, recording great victories against Indonesia (8-0), Kazakhstan (21-0), South Korea (4-1) and Thailand. (5- 0) in the stages of the pool and ensuring a tough 1-0 victory against a resilient Chinese team in the semifinal. India's form in the competition has been inspired by its determined defense in its five matches, which have seen them concede only once in 300 minutes of hockey, which was by a penalty stroke against South Korea.
Deep Grace Ekka, Deepika, Gurjit Kaur, Sunita Lakra and young Reena Khokhar have all played an important role in the defense. But coach Sjoerd Marijne believes that the merit of strong defense is due to the team's collective performance. "We have been good in defense throughout the tournament and we have been excellent in the fight, the only goal we gave was against a strong team like South Korea, and that gives me and the girls great confidence in reaching the final. against Japan. " Marijne said.
"We have defended well as a unit with everyone performing their duties and gives us a solid base in all the matches," he added.
World No. 9 India became the best-ranked Asian team in the world after its quarterfinal final at the recent FIH Women's World Cup 2018, and captain Rani Rampal is determined to become the champion of the Asian Games as well.
"The final against Japan will be exciting, but we are determined to give everything on the pitch to win the game, the team knows that they came here only to achieve one thing, and that is the qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Therefore, we will make sure to play as the best team in Asia and work hard to achieve our goal, "said Rani.
The team's lead, led by the experience of Vandana Katariya and skipper Rani, has also been in mainstream form throughout the tournament, scoring a total of 39 goals. This includes 38 in four Group B matches and one in the semifinal in the five games they have played.
The Indian team will expect their strikers Navneet Kaur, Navjot Kaur and Lalremsiami to compete again when they seek to win their second gold medal in the Asian Games after winning a gold, a silver and three bronze medals in their previous nine appearances. .
The decisive match on Friday will also be India's second gold medal match at the Asian Games, with the team that lost its final match of 1998 1-2 against South Korea, and head coach Sjoerd Marijne distrusting the threat which represents the Japanese team, but believes that the team is brimming with confidence before the summit clash.
"We have played with Japan in the past and we know they are a strong team, they have played well in this tournament and deserve to be in the final," he said.
"But I think we have the quality and confidence to beat any team in the world, so it's important that we stick to our game plan and concentrate on producing the kind of performance worthy of being the Champion," he added. . .
(With IANS entries)