When the two teams last met in the FIH Pro League at Muscat in six months back, India reigned supreme over the Asian opponents – thumping them 7-1 in the first leg and pipped them 3-1 in the second leg. In about six months, China coached by celebrated Australian Alyson Annan (she took charge only in May), have shown that they are a much improved side than what they were at the FIH Pro League. Both sides exercised caution in the opening quarter where no serious attempt was made at goal by either side.
With all four teams splitting points in their opening game, there was understandably some degree of reluctance to go all out. India appeared to be under the cosh when Zhang Xindan offered a sublime pass, wrong-footing the entire Indian defence to Zhang Ying who rushed in from the right to slam the opening goal close to half-time. The onus was on India to throw a serious fightback when they headed into the second half. Penalty corner woes continued to hurt them as they bungled more than half-a-dozen shorties – in fact in two games, Indian eves have scored only twice of 13 shorties.
Just when frustration was beginning to creep into the Indian ranks, the Blueskirts salvaged their pride when Vandana Katariya deflected a Gurjit Kaur drag-flick past Chinese goalkeeper Liu Ping. The final quarter was tense as both teams were wary of conceding the match-winner. India endured some anxious final moments before settling for a 1-1 draw The result means India’s winless record against China in World Cup continues – they have earlier lost to the red brigade twice in the 1998 and 2006 World Cups.
India’s quarterfinal hopes have dented somewhat by two consecutive draws and they really need to pull up their socks in their must-win final league tie against New Zealand on Thursday.