Indian hockey eves showed much-needed early promise but subsequently surrendered the initiative to go down to New Zealand 3-4 in a tension-packed World Cup game at Amstelveen – a result that means the Indian women would now have to travel to Terrassa, Spain to play in the crossover stage where they could run into hosts Spain or their Asian counterparts South Korea. Vandana Katariya gave the Indian camp much to root for with a lovely opportunistic goal, getting in her stick to deflect past New Zealand goalkeeper Brooke Roberts in a nifty team goal set up by Neha Goyal and Lalremsiami. It did not take long for the Black Sticks eves to rebound – ever-reliable and their most capped player Oliva Merry slammed a short corner goal and from there on, New Zealand appeared to take the game away from India and they put a seal of confirmation of that when Tessa Jopp made the most of a sluggish Indian defence close to half-time.
Even before Indian eves could harbour hopes of mounting a comeback in the second half, New Zealand pressed home the advantage with another shortie conversion by Frances Davies. Trailing 1-3 with little over a quarter to go, Sushila Chanu fed a sublime slap pass from outside the ‘D’ to Lalremsiami, who neatly tapped it home to let New Zealand know their fight was very much on. New Zealand weathered a barrage of Indian attacks in the final quarter – there was a period when the Blueskirts earned six shorties in quick succession. The Black Sticks eves made India rue their missed chances when Olivia Merry struck again off a short corner to give her side a two-goal cushion. Gurjit Kaur converted a short corner in the dying moments of the game but it was too little too late.
India had only themselves to blame – they had their chances but they muffed up a plethora of short corners, converting one out of 15 PCs – a big area to focus on for improvement. New Zealand goalie Brooker Roberts was a wall that Indian found it hard to breach – she was the big difference in the final 4-3 scoreline for the Black Sticks. Coach Janneke Schopman has a lot of work to do ahead of the crossover game. The likes of Deep Grace Ekka and Navjot Kaur despite their vast international experience cut a disappointing figure – the trapping of Navjot was frustrating to watch and there is little doubt that she is a weakling in the Indian side – even the coach would struggle to hide her on the pitch. Deep Grace Ekka with more 200 internationals under her belt, committed a schoolgirlish blunder with a deliberate foot hit and was yellow-carded.
Indian deep defence was woeful – Udit was guilt on more than occasion of howlers that hurt the team, including the second New Zealand goal, and with Deep Grace Ekka not every effective in defence, there was a lot of pressure on the likes of Nikki Pradhan and Sushila Chanu, who had a great game, playing her part in two of India’s three goals as well as showing her intelligence in calling two PC video referrals – it’s a different matter that Indian eves could not capitalise on it.