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FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup: Indian Begin With Payback in Mind

The Indian women’s hockey team will begin their campaign at the FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup against England on July 3, followed by China on June 5 and their last pool match against New Zealand on July 7.
Indian women's hockey team in training ahead of the FIH Women's World Cup

(File image) Indian women’s hockey team will begin their FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup campaign in The Netherlands and Spain on July 3.

India will begin their campaign at the FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup with an emotional subplot in the mix. They take on England in their opening Pool B at the Wagener Stadium, Amstelveen, Netherlands on July 3, Sunday. The World Cup is being co-hosted by Spain and The Netherlands with India scheduled to play all of their group matches in Amstelveen.

India would be eager to settle scores with England. It was the Great Britain side which shattered their bronze medal hopes at last year’s Tokyo Olympics. India lost 3-4 to GB in the third-place playoff at the Games, a miss that left the players distraught. 

"Even though as a team, we would be focused on our own performance, England and India have faced off in some very close encounters and undoubtedly a rivalry has developed over the past three-four years in particular," said skipper Savita Punia about the opener against England. 

"Some of our players want to challenge their goalkeeper Maddie Hinge, who has been quite exceptional at the goalpost. And they also have some very experienced players like Laura Unsworth, Giselle Ansley, their Captain Hollie Pearne-Webb and Lily Owsley who will bring their 'A' game against us," she added.

Almost a year on from missing the bronze by a whisker, the side, with a new coach at the helm, has regrouped. They come into the July 1-17 tournament high on confidence after finishing a creditable third in their maiden outing in the FIH Pro League. India’s best performance in the World Cup was a fourth place finish at the inaugural edition in 1974 and this side looks more than capable 

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The Indian women’s team achieved its best-ever world ranking, sixth position, in May, and gave some top teams a run for their money at the Pro League, finishing on the podium ahead of sides like Belgium, Australia and England. Punia has taken over as skipper from Rani Rampal, has been as inspiring as the latter, who is sidelined by a hamstring injury. Punia has been in stellar form under the bar too.

India’s backline will be marshalled by vice-captain Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur, Udita and Nikki Pradhan, while the responsibility of building attacks will be on Sushila Chanu, Neha Goyal, Navjot Kaur, Sonika, Jyoti, Nisha and Monika. Salima Tete, who has been in terrific form, will play the linking role, and is equally adept at tearing down the flanks. The responsibility of scoring goals will be on experienced Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur and Sharmila Devi.

On paper, the squad is well-oiled, and, in the past three months or so, proven its mettle too. 

India finished eight in the last edition of the World Cup in 2018, but are confident, or rather, gunning for a podium finish this time around. Chief coach Janekke Schopman understands the potential of her players and is aiming for nothing less.

“If we truly play to our potential, we play the way we know we can consistently, anything is possible,” Schopman said.

“Women’s hockey at this moment is very tight, anyone can beat anyone,” she added. “(But) consistency is a big point of attention. If we can play consistently well, top-4, and who knows a podium in the World Cup is a possibility. 

“I think we have great potential and if we actually play to our potential we are a tough team to beat.” the 45-year-old said.

Their opening opponents, England, is fourth in the world rankings. Their best result in the World Cup was a bronze at the 2010 edition in Rosario, Argentina. After England, India will face China on June 5, followed by their last pool match against New Zealand on July 7.


MATCH 1 (July 3) | India vs England - 8:00 pm IST at Wagener Stadium, Amstelveen, Netherlands

MATCH 2 (July 5) | India vs China - 8:00 pm IST at Wagener Stadium, Amstelveen, Netherlands

MATCH 3 (July 7) | India vs New Zealand - 11:00 pm IST at Wagener Stadium, Amstelveen, Netherlands


Goalkeepers: Savita Punia (C), Bichu Devi Kharibam

Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka (VC), Gurjit Kaur, Nikki Pradhan, Udita

Midfielders: Nisha, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Monika, Neha, Jyoti, Navjot Kaur, Sonika, Salima Tete

Forwards: Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur, Sharmila Devi

(With additions from PTI)

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