Happy to qualify for World Cup on merit, says Rani after Indian women beat China for Asia Cup

Written By: Aravind
Rani scored the winner for India in the sudden death against China at the Women's Asia Cup final

Bengaluru, November 5: The Indian women's hockey team skipper Rani Rampal, who led India's title triumph at the Women's Asia Cup in Kakamigahara, Japan, was delighted that the team had qualified for the World Cup on merit.

Golden Rani strikes at the death

Rani scored the winning goal after goalkeeper Savita's commendable save to help India defeat China 5-4 in sudden death. The scores were 1-1 in regulation time. The win ensured that India qualified for the World Cup in London next year as the continental champions.

"We are all extremely happy that we won the Asia Cup and have earned the qualification for next year's World Cup on merit," Rani. "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 and China too played equally well today and the match went into penalty shootout."

Dragflicker Gurjit Kaur was exceptional in the tournament for India, accounting for eight of India's 25 goals in the event. Navjot Kaur struck five and Navneet Kaur scored four goals for the team. Rani herself scored thrice in the tournament, but her penalty stroke under pressure in the sudden death was the one which sealed the title for India.

"It was high level competition and we did not drop our level at any point in the game. Savita made a brilliant save in sudden death and I am happy I could convert that goal in sudden death. The win was a result of a lot of hard work through this entire year and also the efforts of our coaching staff."

It was, in fact, Harendra Singh's first competitive tournament as the coach of the women's team. Harendra, who had guided the Under-21 side to a junior World Cup last November, took charge after Sjoerd Marijne, the then women's coach, was handed Roelant Oltman's job as the men's team head coach.

Under Marijne, the women's team had a disappoiting outing at the Hockey World League Semi-Final in Johannesburg, South Africa, where they finished eighth. However, Rani insisted the Asian title will only motivate the girls to do better in bigger tournaments next year.

"We were not happy with our performance in Johannesburg at the World League Semi-Final 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," Rani said. "We worked a lot on creating PCs and Gurjit (Kaur) worked hard on converting PCs during our camps. We were also well-prepared for a shootout situation as we were anticipating the knockouts to end in shootout. All the preparation helped us today."

India last won an Asia Cup title in 2004, where they beat Japan 1-0 in Delhi. Rani, however, feels it's a new chapter in Indian hockey as they completed a double of Asian Cup triumphs for India with even the men clinching the title in Malaysia two weeks ago.

"This win motivates us to do better and better," Rani added. "Hopefully we will carry this confidence and motivation into the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games next year. Finally now that we have won, there is going to be a lot of dancing and celebrations back in the hotel."

Story first published: Sunday, November 5, 2017, 19:30 [IST]
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