In­dia gears up against tough Ja­panese side

The Sunday Guardian - - Sports -

DONGHAE CITY (SOUTH KOREA): Dutch coach Sjo­erd Mar­i­jne will hope to start his sec­ond stint with the In­dian women’s hockey team on a pos­i­tive note when the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons open their cam­paign against a tough Ja­panese side at the 5th Women’s Asian Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy here on Sun­day.

Mar­i­jne started his stint with In­dian hockey when he took charge of the women’s team in 2016. He was then shifted to the men’s squad last year for a pe­riod of eight months be­fore go­ing back to the women’s team ear­lier this month.

The rea­son for his re­moval as men’s team coach was the fail­ure to bag a medal at the Gold Coast Com­mon­wealth Games last month. Cur­rently placed 12th in the world rank­ings, Ja­pan have proven to be given In­dia a hard fight in the past, of­ten chal­leng­ing them with a struc­tured de­fence mak­ing scor­ing a Her­culean task.

In the 2013 Asian Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy Fi­nal, Ja­pan had beaten In­dia in the fi­nal to win the tro­phy.

In the 2016 edi­tion where In­dia even­tu­ally won the ti­tle for the first time, Ja­pan had held In­dia to a 2-2 draw and had beaten fi­nal­ists China in the pool stage.

In­dia had lost 0-2 to Ja­pan in last year’s Hockey World League Round Three in July but avenged that loss in the Asian Cup where they de­feated Ja­pan, who were the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons and hosts. “We have al­ways had tough com­pe­ti­tion against Ja­pan. They are a qual­ity team and break­ing their de­fence early in the match will be cru­cial for us,” In­dia cap­tain Su­nita Lakra said.

The team, ac­cord­ing to Su­nita is high on con­fi­dence af­ter do­ing well against higher ranked teams at the re­cent XXI Com­mon­wealth Games.

“We want to make a good start to the tour­na­ment and the team is con­fi­dent of it. We no longer go into tour­na­ments as the un­der­dogs. We have a win­ning men­tal­ity now and want to take it match-by-match here. We had a good warm-up match against Malaysia. It was for three quar­ters and the team played to struc­ture. We hope to carry the same con­sis­tency into our first game on Sun­day,” Su­nita as­serted. IANS

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