A confident Indian Women’s Hockey team will be vying to win the Asian Games’ Gold Medal after a long wait of 36 years when they take on World No. 14 Japan in the Final match of the 18th Asian Games Jakarta-Palembang 2018 here at the Gelora Bung Karno Hockey Field on Friday, 31st August 2018. The impressive Indian team has remained undefeated throughout the tournament by registering huge victories against Indonesia (8-0), Kazakhstan (21-0), Republic of Korea (4-1) and Thailand (5-0) in the Pool stages and securing a hard-fought 1-0 win against a resilient Chinese team in the Semi-Final.
India’s top form in the competition has been inspired by their resolute defending throughout their five matches which has seen them concede only once in 300 minutes of hockey, which was through a Penalty Stroke against Republic of Korea. Deep Grace Ekka, Deepika, Gurjit Kaur, Sunita Lakra and youngster Reena Khokhar have all played a major role in defense but Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne believes that the credit for the strong display in defense goes to the team’s collective performance, “We have been good in defense throughout the tournament and have been excellent with the tackling. The only goal we conceded was against a strong team like Republic of Korea, and that gives me and the girls huge confidence going into the Final against Japan. We have defended well as a unit with everyone executing their duties and it gives us a solid foundation in all the matches.”
The World No. 9 Indian team became the highest ranked Asian team in the world after their Quarter-Final finish at the recent FIH Women’s World Cup 2018, and Captain Rani is determined to become the Champions of the Asian Games as well. She said, “The Final against Japan will be exciting for sure but we are determined to give everything on the pitch to win the match. The team knows that they came here to only achieve one thing, and that is qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Therefore, we will make sure that we play like the best team in Asia and work hard to achieve our goal.”
The team’s forward-line, led by the experience of Vandana Katariya and Captain Rani, has also been in prime form throughout the tournament, scoring a total of 39 goals (38 in four Pool B matches, 1 in Semi-Final) in the five matches that they have played. The Indian team will be expecting their Forwards Navneet Kaur, Navjot Kaur and Lalremsiami to deliver again as they look to win only their second Gold Medal at the Asian Games after having won one Gold, one Silver and three Bronze Medals in their nine previous appearances.
Friday’s decider will also be India’s second Gold Medal match at the Asian Games, with the team having lost their 1998 Final match 1-2 to South Korea, and Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne is wary of the threat that the Japanese team poses but believes that his team is oozing confidence ahead of the Final. He said, “We have played Japan in the past and we know that they are a strong side. They have played well in this tournament and deserve to be in the Final. But I believe we have the quality and confidence to beat any team in the world. Therefore, it is important that we stick to our game-plan and concentrate on producing the kind of performance which is worthy of being the Champions.”
The Indian Women’s Hockey Team will be in action against Japan in the Gold Medal match on Friday, 31st August 2018 at 18.30hrs IST.