Jakarta, August 30: A confident Indian women's hockey team will be vying to win the Asian Games gold Medal after a long wait of 36 years when they take on World No 14 Japan in the final match of the 18th Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang 2018 here at the Gelora Bung Karno Hockey Field on Friday (August 31).
The impressive Indian team has remained undefeated throughout the tournament by registering huge victories against Indonesia (8-0), Kazakhstan (21-0), Republic of Korea (4-1) and Thailand (5-0) in the pool stages and securing a hard-fought 1-0 win against China in the semifinal.
India's top form in the competition has been inspired by their resolute defending throughout their five matches which has seen them concede only once in 300 minutes of hockey, a penalty stroke against Korea.
The Indian Eves will eye their first gold medal at the Asiad since 1982 when they face Japan in the Final of the @asiangames2018. Watch this landmark clash LIVE on @SPNSportsIndia and @SonyLIV at 6:30 PM (IST) on 31st August!#IndiaKaGame #AsianGames2018 #INDvJPN pic.twitter.com/ofMzJRMZP3— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) August 30, 2018
Deep Grace Ekka, Deepika, Gurjit Kaur, Sunita Lakra and youngster Reena Khokhar have all played a major role in defence but Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne believes that the credit for the strong display in defense goes to the team's collective performance.
"We have been good in defence throughout the tournament and have been excellent with the tackling. The only goal we conceded was against a strong team like Republic of Korea, and that gives me and the girls huge confidence going into the final against Japan. We have defended well as a unit with everyone executing their duties and it gives us a solid foundation in all the matches," he said.
The World No 9 Indian team became the highest ranked Asian team in the world after their quarterfinal finish at the recent FIH Women's World Cup 2018 in London, and captain Rani Rampal is determined to become the champions of the Asian Games as well.
She said, "The final against Japan will be exciting for sure but we are determined to give everything on the pitch to win the match. The team knows that they came here to only achieve one thing, and that is qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Therefore, we will make sure that we play like the best team in Asia and work hard to achieve our goal."
The team's forward-line, led by the experience of Vandana Katariya and Rani, has also been in prime form throughout the tournament, scoring a total of 39 goals (38 in four Pool B matches and one in the semifinal) in the five matches that they have played. The Indian team will be expecting their forwards Navneet Kaur, Navjot Kaur and Lalremsiami to deliver again as they look to win only their second gold medal at the Asian Games after having won one gold, one silver and three bronze medals in their nine previous appearances.
India last appeared in a gold medal match in 1998, losing the final 1-2 to Korea. Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne is wary of the threat that the Japanese team poses but believes that his team is oozing with confidence ahead of the final.
He said, "We have played Japan in the past and we know that they are a strong side. They have played well in this tournament and deserve to be in the final. But I believe we have the quality and confidence to beat any team in the world. Therefore, it is important that we stick to our game-plan and concentrate on producing the kind of performance which is worthy of being the champions."
India vs Japan
Women's hockey gold medal match
Live on Friday, August 31, at 6.30 pm IST
Matches will be shown live on Sony ESPN, Sony ESPN HD, Sony TEN 1, Sony TEN 1 HD, Sony TEN 3 and Sony TEN 3 HD, while the live streaming will be available on SonyLIV.com
(Source: Hockey India)