The Tokyo Olympics' field hockey match between India and Netherlands saw the Indian girls flatter only to deceive. After putting up a brave showing in the first half, they lost their way in the second to go down by a 1-5 margin.
Maria Verschoor opened the scoring as early as the sixth minute. However, Sjoerd Marijne's team stood up to the world champions soon after, as captain Rani Rampal scored a quick equalizer.
The Indian eves staved off several Dutch attacks and launched themselves into the opposition half, displaying a fearless brand of hockey that delighted their fans. But they were unable to hold on after Margot van Geffen gave the Netherlands a 2-1 lead early in the second half.
One goal followed another as the Indians ventured into opposition territory in search of an equalizer. That left several gaps unplugged for the Dutch to slip through at will.
Despite the heavy defeat, the Indian think tank would've found positives ahead of the next clash against Germany. Nonetheless, three significant talking points emerged post the proceedings at the Oi Hockey Stadium:
Game time matters - and the Indian girls did not have enough
India's rivals in Tokyo matched their wits against each other during the FIH Hockey Pro League (HPL). The Indian girls, who are not part of the league, had to be content playing practice Tests on tour.
Several HPL matches had to be canceled due to the pandemic. Despite that, the teams in Tokyo have faced competition of a substantially higher level than the Indians in the lead up to the Games.
Coach Sjoerd Marijne was understandably upset at the lack of game time before the Olympics. But he will no doubt be proud that the girls put up a creditable display, albeit in patches, against a side like no other.
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The Dutch continue to rule hockey
No team has dominated women's hockey like the Dutch have, and the mind-boggling numbers speak for themselves.
After all, Max Caldas didn't receive the Coach of the Year award for nothing. Not after guiding the Dutch women to wins in the 2012 London Olympics, the 2013 Hockey World League and the 2014 Women's World Cup.
Under Alysson Annan, the girls have continued to be just as dominant - winning the 2018 Women's World Cup and the recent Hockey Pro League title.
Once the dust has settled on the defeat in Tokyo, the Indian girls will realize that they lost to one of the best-ever teams in the women's game. The squad will now need to regroup and pick themselves up before the vital matches ahead.
Indian side's depth remains a worry
The Indian girls are now fitter and stronger than ever before, thanks to scientific advisor Wayne Lombard and the support staff. However, the question remains whether the depth in the squad matches that of a world class side.
With the 2018 Asian Games scheduled less than a month after the grueling Women's World Cup, Marijne picked the same squad for both tournaments.
The reason was simple - there weren't enough players capable of performing at the highest level.
With the advent of youngsters like Salima and Sharmila, the girls now have more personnel to turn to than they did before. Regardless, they would've struggled in a tournament like the Hockey Pro League, which requires players to be rotated due to the busy schedule.
Falling apart against bigger teams, like in the 0-6 defeat against England in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, has remained a worry. If only the selectors had more options to choose from, the already established unit could well be transformed into a side of consistent world beaters.