The two best teams in the competition engaged in a battle of wits in order to get a good measure of the other, as well as to identify chinks in the opposition's armor a day before they lock horns to establish continental supremacy.
Hosts South Korea halted India's juggernaut of victories at Donghae ahead of the big final tomorrow. The Indians who dominated each encounter thus far in the tournament failed to do so today but Indian coach Sjoerd Marijne told us in an exclusive interaction that the girls were saving their best for the last.
The Korean girls looked solid and compact in the midfield and were quick to pounce on any loose balls to launch some speedy attacks which tested the Indian defence. The Indians found manoeuvrable space hard to come by as a result of some watertight marking by the Koreans in midfield.
Long balls and set pieces play a vital role
The spectacular dodges and runs which the Indian strikers undertook in their previous three encounters were conspicuous by their absence today. Vertical passes and possession play in midfield were the order of the day for Sunita Lakra and her team. The Indians did, however, manage some brilliant long balls into the circle which beat the Koreans but were rendered ineffective as the strikers failed to connect.
The Indian coaching staff and the team deserve credit as they refused to be outwitted by the Korean strategy and altered their own gameplan to counter their wily opponents.
The match started off at a blistering pace, but ten minutes into the first quarter, both sides tightened up in midfield and played a waiting, probing game, searching for space and waiting to capitalize on potential errors.
For the Indians, it was the first time during the course of the tournament that the midfield had to engage in possession play and control, having thus far excelled in an advancing and attacking role. They did decently, however, and displayed the ability to be able to adapt well to changing scenarios on the pitch.
Vital lessons have been learned for sure by the Indian camp to put into practice in the match that matters, and long balls into the circles and set pieces may continue to be the key for both teams tomorrow.
The Koreans look to be extremely gifted with regard to their PC variations and the Indian defenders can ill afford to give away too many. PC specialist, Cheon Seul Ki gave a display of what she is capable of in the 20th minute to give her team the lead.
Cheon's opposite number, Gurjit Kaur earned her 50th international cap today and will be the key to India's chances in the medal match tomorrow.
Lalremsiani was the architect of India's goal as she forced her way into the Korean circle and earned a PC for India with just over 10 minutes left on the clock. Gurjit's flick was padded away by the Korean goalie, but the young Mizo striker took a tumble while latching onto the rebound and sent the ball crashing into the woodwork.
Medal match more important says coach Marijne
Indian coach Sjoerd Marijne refuses to read much into today's result. In an exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda, this is what Marijne had to say, "(Today's) result is fine. It’s all about tomorrow. Today is not important because we can’t win medals."
He replied in the affirmative when asked if the girls had saved their best game for tomorrow but said he cannot share his plans for the final. "The girls saved energy for tomorrow and have a lot of confidence.''
Hosts Korea won the inaugural tournament at Busan in 2010 and the second in 2013 and will look to make amends for a fourth-place finish in the last edition.
Sjoerd Marijne's Indian's girls, however, are on the threshold of a second consecutive gold and it looks unlikely that they will settle for anything less.Published 19 May 2018, 17:22 IST