Indian women’s hockey team hopeful of Olympic qualification

New Delhi, July 6 (IANS) The Indian women’s hockey team is still hopeful of qualifying for the Rio Olympics following their fifth place finish at the Hockey World League (HWL) Semi-Final which keeps them in contention for the 2016 Games.

“Our target was to qualify for Olympics and we are still in contention. All the players played to their strengths. We played against some of the higher ranked teams which gave us insights on our shortcomings. We will work on them to improve our game play and be ready for our Olympic dream,” India skipper Ritu Rani said after returning to the national capital from Antwerp on Monday morning.

India needed to finish in top-3 in the 10-team tournament to qualify directly for the Olympics. They failed to do that but following their fifth place finish they are still in with a chance. The final 12 positions for the Games will decided in October on the completion of respective continental championships, which also earn teams berths for Rio.

“We knew we had to be in the top-5 to stay in contention for the Rio Olympics. The last two games were very crucial for us and the girls kept their cool despite the huge expectations and pressure on them. The younger players specially played really well and I can confidently say that the future for women’s hockey in India is very bright,” the team’s assistant coach C.R. Kumar said.

On paper, India’s chances look good. To back it up, team goalkeeper Savita said: “The match against Japan was very crucial for us. We knew it was our last shot to qualify for the Olympics at Rio so we had to play to our strengths.

“During the successive penalty corners in the last quarter, it was the effort of the entire team which helped in defending our lead. Everyone was aware that we had to safeguard the sole goal. We scored and we did it beautifully. If we qualify for Rio it will be a dream come true.”

India lost 0-7 to the Netherlands in the quarterfinal of the tournament following which they had to play the 5-8 classification match against Italy where India won 5-4 on penalties after regulation period score read 1-1. Then in the 5-6 position match against Japan, India did well to come out 1-0 on top.

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