It has been a truly disappointing World Cup campaign for Olympic fourth-place finishers India – missing the quarterfinal bus would rankle the Janneke Schopman-coached Indian outfit for some time to come. Amidst the pall of disappointment, Indian hockey eves dished out the best performance in their last match of the World Cup, clawing their way from a second-quarter goal down to overwhelm Japan 3-1 at Terrassa. It was India who was calling the shots from the starting hooter – they regularly parked themselves in the opposition ‘D’ but goals eluded them as the Japanese defence held out firmly. Almost against the run of play, Japan pulled ahead with Yu Asai profiting from their first penalty corner with the ball taking a deflection off the first rusher.
India summoned desperate measures to come back into the match and mounted a wave of attacks on Japan – their persistence paid off when Navneet Kaur scored a nifty goal at 34 seconds remaining for the half-time hooter after she was set up by Neha Goyal and Udita. The goal came close on the heels of Vandana Katariya hitting the crossbar after she was fed by Navneet Kaur, who after an indifferent start to the World Cup, came alive in the last two classification games. The final minute goal in the first half pepped up the Indian eves, who went for broke. They forced a barrage of short corners but struggled to convert them until Deep Grace Ekka whipped home to put India in front in the third quarter. The goal may help Deep Grace Ekka to prolong her international career in what has been a truly forgettable World Cup for her.
At the stroke of the third quarter hooter, Jyoti orchestrated a sublime run down the right and relayed it to Navneet Kaur who did the needful to literally take the contest away from Japan. There was no way Japan could roar back in the final quarter as Indian women dominated possession and did not take the foot of their fifth gear.
Indian women have wrapped up their World Cup campaign with a bang but they know they have a lot of room for improvement ahead of the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.