Uninspiring India face must-win situation against Ireland to keep Olympic campaign alive
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 its penultimate pool match here on Friday to keep its quarterfinal hopes alive in the Olympic Games.
India is currently placed fifth in the six-team Pool A, just below Ireland who have registered just 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 both their remaining two games -- against Ireland and South Africa (on Saturday) -- and 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.
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.
It was not as if India didn't create any chances in all three games but the misfiring forward-line disappointed the team.
India committed elementary errors in all departments of the game, with midfield and defense being as guilt.
''This was our worst match. We always try to play for a six (out of 10) for each individual, and I don't think each today played for a six. Bad decisions, bad choices, and I'm pretty disappointed by this,'' the Dutchman had said. ''...but the individual performances just weren't good enough. I can keep analyzing what went wrong tactically, but it starts with every individual reaching their level.'' But Marijne insisted that all is not lost as they still have a chance of progressing to the knockout round. ''We still have chances. There are still six points to get and that can be enough for the quarters. That's what we're all about, that's our goal and that's what I said to the girls,'' the coach said.
But it would be easier said than done as the faltering Indian defense will need to keep the trio of Elena Tice, captain Kathryn Mullan, and Hannah McLoughlin in check. Though ranked below Ireland, world no.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.
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