Bolstered by the campaign-saving draw against a mighty USA, the Indian women’s hockey team will fancy its chances against lower-ranked Italy in the cross-over World Cup match, in London on Tuesday. Ranked 10th, India will start as overwhelming favourites against 17th ranked Italy in the crucial knock-out match, where a win will pit them against Ireland in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
While India had to fight their way into the knock-out round from Pool B after registering two draws against England and USA and a loss to Ireland, Italy easily scrapped past China (3-0) and Korea (1-0) before slumping to a heavy 1-12 loss to Netherlands in their last match to finish second in Pool A.
But going into Tuesday’s game the momentum surely would be on India’s side and it would also be difficult for Italy to bounce back from the morale-shattering loss against the Dutch.
Under pressure, the Indians, on the other hand, produced a spirited performance against USA to come out of a difficult situation and salvage their World Cup campaign.
Having conceded a goal in the 11th minute against USA, India’s backs were against the wall and it took a valiant all-round effort and an inspiring goal from skipper Rani Rampal in the 31st minute to secure the all-important draw, a result which shut the doors on the Americans.
The match would come as an added motivation for the Indians as a win would provide them an opportunity to avenge their 0-1 loss to Ireland in the pool stages.
Experienced India captain Rani knows what it takes to win such crucial matches and said they need to go full throttle.
“We need to just focus on ourselves, build on our strength and ensure we use our positive points in the match against Italy. There is no doubt we need to go all-out in this crucial crossover match if we want to see ourselves in the quarter-final,” said Rani whose goal against USA enables India to finish third in Pool B.
Rani emphasised on the need to have a winning mentality to do well in big tournaments.
“We all knew a draw would be enough, but we wanted to go for the win. I think the hunger to win attitude helped us. We enter a match with the attitude that if we play a good match then the crowds will support us and that we must fight for the ball. I am proud of how the team played against USA and now we need to once again do everything we can to win against Italy,” she said.
Notwithstanding Italy’s 12-1 drubbing against Netherlands in their last match, the Indian skipper warned her side against complacency, saying the Italians are a serious contender.
The Indians would also draw inspiration from their shoot-out victory against the Italians at the 2015 Hockey World League Semi-final.
“Italy is a good team and they have enjoyed good wins in this tournament too. But we need to go into the match with the self-belief that we can beat them,” Rani said.
The match starts at 10:30 PM IST.