After finishing third in Pool B, the Indian team will take on hosts Spain in the FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup crossover match for a place in the quarterfinal on Sunday in Terrassa, Spain.

India have had tough matches in a tough pool that was always going to be impossible to call. In the end, New Zealand and England managed to get the necessary wins to finish first and second. But till about two quarters left in the pool-stage action, it could have easily been India taking New Zealand’s place in the quarterfinals, enjoying a long break and then getting ready face to Germany with sizeable Indian support in Amsterdam.

Instead, here they are, back in action in no time, facing a must-win against the co-hosts in what could well be a cauldron.

“Let’s fill the Olympic stadium,” has been the rallying call from the Spanish team as they bank on the atmosphere – to go with their exciting brand of hockey – to defeat the Indians.

The Indian team led by goalkeeper Savita played out two thrilling draws against England (1-1) and China (1-1) respectively before suffering a narrow 3-4 loss against New Zealand, also a thriller, in their pool stage of the tournament.

It meant entry into the crossover phase which is where all second and third-placed teams compete against each other to face the four table-toppers in quarterfinals. For the winner of this match, Australia’s Hockeyroos await.

In their first match of the tournament against England, goals by Isabelle Petter (9’) and Vandana Katariya (28’) helped their respective teams add a crucial point on the pool table.

India then put up yet another fighting performance to hold China to a 1-1 draw in their second Pool B match. Jiali Zheng opened the scoring in the 26th minute at the end of an excellent pass, but that goal was cancelled out by Vandana Katariya in the 45th minute.

In their third and final match of the pool stage, India managed to progress to the crossover stage of despite losing 3-4 to New Zealand. Katariya continued her fantastic form with another goal, that gave India the lead, while Lalremsiami and Gurjit Kaur were the other scorers for India to narrow the deficit sufficiently and take India through on goal difference.

Reflecting on the campaign so far, Savita told Hockey India, “We knew the pool matches were going to be really tough. We fought hard and never gave up, but it’s just that the results haven’t been in our favour. However, we should quickly put it behind us, and focus on what’s next. We are still in contention and will give our everything to qualify for the quarterfinals.”

Meanwhile, vice-captain Deep Grace Ekka stressed on the need to make further improvements. “I think we could have played a lot better in the three matches we played. We created many chances in the pool stage, especially in the last game, but our conversion was not up to the mark. So, we certainly have to improve on our conversion, we have to be more clinical. At the end, it’s all about converting those opportunities,” she said.

The home side Spain registered two wins and a loss in the pool stage. They started their campaign with a 4-1 win against Canada but lost 1-4 to favourites Argentina in their second match. The scoreline didn’t quite convey how entertaining and close the contest was. However, they bounced back with a 4-1 victory over Korea to finish second in Pool C.

The last time when India and Spain faced each other during the FIH Hockey Pro League 2021/22, where both teams shared the honours in Odisha. India won the first match 2-1, while Spain responded with a 4-3 win in the second leg of the double-header held in Bhubaneswar, Odisha earlier this year.

Reflecting on the match-up against Spain, Savita said, “Spain are a very good team and they are playing at their home so it will be a challenging match. However, we have played against them in the Pro League this year, so we are quite familiar with how they have been playing in recent times. But, the focus tomorrow will be on ourselves, on how we execute our plans. We will have to play our A-game against them for sure.”

Ekka said the team will go into the game without putting too much pressure and their focus will be on playing good hockey.

“We have got a great opportunity to qualify for the quarterfinals and carry forward the momentum from there. However, we will go into the game without putting too much pressure. We just need to play to our strengths and just focus on playing good hockey because eventually, that will help us get the desired results,” she said.

India will take on Spain at 1 am IST on July 11, 2022 (late Sunday night in Spain). The matches will be live on Star Sports First, Star Sports 3 and streamed on Disney+ Hotstar.