From the brink of elimination, India came back to level the scores against USA and keep their campaign at the Hockey World Cup alive. Captain Rani Rampal’s 31st minute penalty corner conversion against the Americans earned India a crossover match – a qualifier for the quarter-finals – against Italy on Tuesday.
Bolstered by the draw against the Americans, the Indian women (world No 10) will fancy their chances against the 17th ranked Italy at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre. A win will pit them against Ireland (to whom they’d lost 0-1 in the group stage) 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.
It would be difficult for Italy to bounce back from the morale-shattering loss against the Dutch and, hence, the momentum is with the women in blue.
On the other hand, the Indians, under pressure, produced a spirited performance against USA to come out of a difficult situation and salvage their World Cup campaign.
We need to go all out: Rani
Having conceded a goal in the 11th minute against USA, India’s hopes were diminishing till their skipper equalised with a splendid drive 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 to beat Italy and grab the opportunity to avenge their 0-1 loss to Ireland in the group stage.
“We need to just focus on ourselves, build on our strength and ensure we use our positive points in the match against Italy,” said Rani. “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.”
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 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 1-12 drubbing against Netherlands in their last match, the Indian skipper warned against complacency.
India 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.
(With inputs from PTI)