The Indian women’s hockey team has already made history by reaching the semifinals for the first time. Now they can add a golden hue to their fairy-tale run by beating Argentina in Wednesday’s semifinal.
Having beaten world No. 2 Australia in the quarterfinals on Monday, the Indians will be bullish against Argentina. They have exceeded their expectations, they have nothing to lose and all the experience to gain by playing one of the top teams. But they can’t be complacent as this is an opportunity of a lifetime to reach the final at the Olympic Games.
Ranked ninth in the world before the start of the Olympics, the Indians have come up the hard way, breaking new grounds to reach the semifinals by beating Australia 1-0 on Monday. It was a clinical display in which they scored an early goal and then absorbed the pressure created by Hockeyroos throughout.
The Indian defenders and goalkeeper Savita Punia were exceptional against Australia and they will now have to repeat that performance against Argentina. However, the South Americans are a very different team from the Hockeyroos, more physical though less imposing. They are a very fit side and do a lot of running up and down.
They have a very good short corner specialist in Agustina Gorzelany, who has scored three goals so far, while forward Agustina Albertarrio has contributed two field goals.
The Indians have some idea about the Argentine team having played them on a tour in January this year. Though those were exhibition matches and the players and not as serious as an Olympics clash, the Indians had some good moments on that tour.
This Indian team led by Rani Rampal has grown in stature with each match. It started with a 1-5 defeat against world No. 1 Netherlands, a 0-2 loss to Germany, and was outplayed 1-4 by Great Britain. But a 1-0 win against Ireland, with a late goal by Navneet Kaur, kept their hopes alive and then a rollercoaster 4-3 win against South Africa in which they went ahead thrice but allowed the Africans to equalised on all three occasions and eventually made it to the quarterfinals after the Irish lost to Great Britain in their last league match.
Against Argentina, the Indians will have to be more aggressive, create more chances and defend well. Forward Vandana Katariya was a bit subdued against Australia but will have to take charge against Argentina. She is India’s top scorer with three goals and India will be looking for more goals from her.
The Indians have nothing to lose and therefore should play freely and go all out.
They have nothing to lose but an Olympic medal to gain for reaching the final will assure a medal.