India hockey eves aim for winning start at Junior Asia Cup (Preview)

Changzhou (China), Sep 4 (IANS) Following a month-long preparation camp, the Indian girls hockey team is all set to start on a winning note when they take on North Korea in their Junior Asia Cup opener here on Saturday.

Placed in Pool A of the nine-team tournament, India will play China, Malaysia and Singapore later. The tournament is a qualification event for the 2016 Junior World Cup and the India eves will try to give their best to get the maximum out of the tournament.

The team will be led by by star forward Rani Rampal with Anupa Barla, Punam Barla, Navneet Kaur and Sonika in the flanks, all of whom will try to score as many goals as possible. Rani played an important role to steer the team to a third-place finish at the recently concluded Under-21 Volvo Invitational.

“It’s time to implement our strategies on field and perform our level best for the opening match. The girls are well prepared and confident to take on North Korea. We don’t know how they play and that brings the additional challenge of a surprise element,” said the skipper.

“We will start aggressively, take the attack to the opponents and aim to score initially. The idea is to have good ball possession whilst keeping the pressure on the opponents. We are geared-up and looking forward to the match.”

Vice-captain Navjot Kaur and talented Lily Chanu will mobilise the midfield area to provide maximum support to the defence line as well as create opportunities for the forwards. Lilima Minz and Renuka Yadav will also move the ball in the midfield.

The defence boasts of experienced Deep Grace Ekka, Namita Toppo and penalty corner specialist Jaspreet Kaur with Inderpreet Kaur in the goal.

This is the first time the two teams will take on each other.

“We have never seen them play but we have the edge in terms of a good and strong team along with experience but we still will not take the match easy as the opponent may have the surprise element and can stun us. We have to watch their every move and play accordingly,” chief coach Mathias Ahrens said.

“We are making sure that there are no loopholes and in the process avoid every room for error. Players have been practicing for the last one month and been working on reducing their earlier mistakes. We will play as per our strategy, understand their game and look at scoring the quick goals. We are confident of a good start.”

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