Needing a draw to stay alive in the Hockey World Cup, India’s hopes flickered after USA scored in the first quarter at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre on Sunday. But captain Rani Rampal saved her team in the 31st minute with a superb strike off a penalty corner to keep India’s campaign afloat.
Under pressure, India produced a spirited performance to come back from a goal down and hold higher-ranked USA to a 1-1 draw in their last Pool B match. The result signaled the exit of United States, who finished fourth in the last edition of the tournament.
The top teams from the four pools progress directly to the quarter-finals while the second and third placed teams will feature in the cross-overs to decide the remaining four spots of the last-eight round.
Margaux Paolino (11th minute) broke the deadlock through a field goal for USA, ranked seventh in the world, before skipper Rani equalised for India in the 31st minute.
The Indians started attacking from the start, making good forays into the US circle but couldn’t get past the strong defence. Despite earning the first penalty corner of the match in the seventh minute, India failed to capitalise.
The momentum slowly tilted in the favour of the Americans, for whom this was a must-win game. They constantly penetrated the Indian circle. On one such occasion, Margaux Paolino scored from a rebound in the 11th minute after her initial try was kicked away by Indian goalkeeper Savita.
The Indian resurgence in second half
Stung by the goal, the Indians continued to press forward and secured two penalty corners in the final minutes of the first quarter but drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur failed on both occasion as USA ended the first quarter with a slender lead.
USA secured their first penalty corner three minutes into the second quarter but the Indians stood tall to thwart any danger.
A minute later India got another penalty corner but this time skipper Rani Rampal’s slap shot was saved by American custodian Jackie Briggs.
The Americans then pressed hard and secured two more penalty corners in the second quarter but Indian goalie Savita was upto the mark.
Trailing by a goal, the Indians came out all guns blazing after the change of ends and drew level a minute into the third quarter through a penalty corner conversion by skipper Rani Rampal.
The Indians showed great energy and attacked the American goal in numbers. In the process they earned their sixth penalty corner in the 47th minute but this time Gurjit’s powerful grounded flick was brilliantly saved by Briggs.
The Indians, thereafter, defended brilliantly to deny USA any breakthrough to secure the hard-earned win and prolong their stay in the tournament.