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India’s attack impresses but defence even more so in opening draw with England


In the end, it was a 1-1 draw but the opening match of the Indian women’s hockey team against England in the FIH Women’s World Cup showed the best aspects of this Indian side – both in terms of attack and defence.

England are a better-ranked team (World no 4), but they were not the better team on Sunday. As Isabelle Petter, scorer of England’s goal and player of the match put it, England will happily take the draw against a ‘class side’ and move on to the next game.

India on the front foot

It was evident from the FIH Pro League matches that India are a better attacking team now under head coach Janneke Schopman. They create chances and earn penalty corners irrespective of how they start the match. England went ahead in the match after a superb field goal from Petter in the first quarter (8th minute), and in fact England created the better scoring chances in the first half, but it was India who maintained possession, and pressure, better.

In fact, they earned six penalty corners in the first two quarters, England had zero. They had more circle penetrations: 13 compared to England’s seven. Before scoring their goal, India had five PCs — One Gurjit Kaur’s dragflick hit the post and a couple of them were well saved by the legendary England keeper Maddie Hinch. She also saved the sixth PC, but the rebound fell to Vandana Katariya whose composed finish gave India a deserved equaliser.

India hold the fort

Defence has not been India’s strength over the past year: The Pro League matches showed that India are prone to conceding at regular intervals. So when England started dominating proceedings in the third quarter, you expected them to take back the lead. They were relentless with the ball, trying to break India’s defence from all angles. In the opening nine minutes, India couldn’t even win ball back… but India withstood the pressure.

What makes it special is that they didn’t need their captain, Savita Punia, to pull off her trademark remarkable saves. Despite all that pressure, they didn’t allow England to create any clear-cut chances. No penalty corners were conceded and England penetrated the circle only twice.

In the final quarter, both India and England came close to scoring with Petter and Sharmila Devi missing from close range. But again, it was India’s defence that impressed. A Gurjit Kaur tackle in the last minute — initially penalized and then cleared on referral — epitomised their efficiency. They didn’t concede a single PC all game.

What next?

The group is finely poised now with both the opening matches ending in a draw. In the other match, New Zealand and China played out a 2-2 draw. India will now play China on 5 July, and with the improvements China have made in the past year, it will be a tough one. They will, though, go into high on confidence. Indeed, Sunday’s all-round performance will have them believing their ambitions of going deep into the tournament are certainly achievable.



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