Asian Champions Trophy 2018: 'Despite early wins, Indian women's hockey team needs to work on defence,' says coach Sjoerd Marijne
In an exclusive interview, Sjoerd Marijne speaks up about his side's chances after taking over as the women's team head coach.
India have looked every inch the defending champions thus far in the tournament, getting past the Japanese with remarkable ease and dealing deftly with a Chinese side who did offer some resistance but finally crumbled against the sheer quality of Sunita Lakra and her team.
For the second match in a row, the Indians came out all guns blazing and looked menacing up front no sooner had the opening whistle been blown. Vandana scored as early as the fourth minute against China just as Navneet had done against the Japanese girls. The aggressive stance is quite a discernible change from the past when India looked to be cautious in the opening minutes at Gold Coast.
Sportskeeda asked coach Sjoerd Marine about this new approach up-front and this is what he had to say, "Yes, we want to play forward and go for the goal. We need to do this more. I want the girls to be aggressive from the start."
The Chinese girls reduced the margin in the dying seconds of a frantic first quarter.
The second quarter was just as intense but the Indian defenders were forced into action as the Chinese looked to equalize. The Indian defence has always been the strength of the unit and the back line was tightened up after Dan Wen scored, to ensure that the Chinese could not find a second goal for the remainder of the match.
The third quarter witnessed some relentless attacks from the Chinese and the Indian defenders soaked up the pressure admirably. The need for a third goal was more evident by the minute, however, as it seemed a matter of time before India's resistance would crumble. India earned a penalty corner with just about ten minutes left on the clock and the ever-dependable Gurjit Kaur struck hard and low to beat the Chinese goalie.
India refused to play the clock down even with a two-goal advantage and could have scored a couple more as China took their goalkeeper off. In the end, it was a comprehensive victory and Sjoerd Marijne's team looked every inch the defending champions,
The Indian defence was resolute as ever at the Commonwealth Games but the forwards did have some issues creating chances and being enterprising in the opposition circle.
In Donghae, however, Lalremsiani, Vandana Katariya, Navneet Kaur, and Anupa Barla have all looked menacing and the midfielders also have been instrumental in creating chances and seizing them. The Indian coach believes that while the above is a welcome change, it isn't time to rejoice as of yet.
"We only played two matches so we must keep calm but so far it has worked well. We want to play more forward and that’s helping us to create chances," he said.
India gave away quite a few PCs against Japan on Wednesday and the coach feels that is an area which the girls need to improve on.
"The defending of the team was not good enough and we have to improve. (There were) too many PCs against us, but we defended the PCs very well and they didn’t score from it," said the India women's team coach.
The performance of the girls thus far has been quite flawless but does Marijne believes that there is room for improvement?
"First, we have to play a few more games to give a good answer to that. Don’t want to reach fast conclusions," he further said.
"I would also like to compliment to Eric Wonink (Analytical Coach) that we kept playing this structure the last 7 months and to Wayne Lombard (Scientific Advisor) making them more fit and Priyanka (Psychologist) for her work on the mental aspect," said Marijne.
A couple of fluent performances against two formidable Asian sides have underlined the fact that for now, at least, India's continental supremacy is not under any immediate threat.
India take on Malaysia on Thursday as they continue their quest for Asian domination ahead of the all-important Asian Games in August.