Women’s hockey preview: Rani-led side to take on Netherlands

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After appearing in the Olympics for the first time in 36 years at the 2016 Rio Games, the Indian women’s hockey team is set for the first time in history to take part in their second consecutive Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The Rani Rampal-led team will be up against world No. 1 Netherlands at the Oi Hockey Stadium on July 24.

Following the disappointing performance in Rio, the Indian team has grown from strength to strength, winning the 2016 Asian Champions Trophy, 2017 Asia Cup, silver medal at the 2018 Asian Games and reaching the quarterfinals of the 2018 Women’s World Cup for the first time in history.

The team also gave commanding performances at the FIH Women’s Series Finals Hiroshima 2019, where they defeated Japan 3-1 to win gold, and the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers 2019 where they defeated the US to book a place in the Olympics.

Ahead of their Olympic encounter, captain Rani expressed the side’s enthusiasm, saying, “It’s very exciting to be here in Tokyo. We have worked very hard for this tournament in the last five years, and we can’t wait for it to start. It’s been a long wait for the Tokyo Games, and we are glad that we are just one day away from our first match. All players are looking good during the practice sessions, and we are very confident about our chances in this competition.”

Rani added that the execution of plans will hold the key for the team in the Olympics.

“We have all the skills to perform at this level. However, it’s very important for us to execute our plans properly. Everyone is clear about their respective roles. If we coordinate well on the field and play to our potential, I am sure we can produce great results in this tournament.”

Following their first Pool A match against the Netherlands, India will take on Germany (July 26), Great Britain (July 28), Ireland (July 30) and South Africa (July 31) before the knockout stage, which begins on August 2.

Chief coach Sjoerd Marijne said, “The Olympics is the biggest of all tournaments and our team is raring to go. The players have put in all the hard yards and now it’s all about going out on the field and giving it their best. This team has played well against the top sides in the recent past and therefore the confidence level in the group is high. We are going to take it one match at a time and try to keep improving with each match.”Pool A match schedule

India vs Netherlands – July 24

India vs Germany – July 26

India vs Great Britain – July 28

India vs Ireland – July 30

India vs South Africa – July 31

–IANS

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