Asian Games 2018: "Girls have lots of confidence, but Rani still under observation" says Marijne after 4-1 win against Korea
Gurjit Kaur has sounded a stern warning to India's adversaries at Jakarta that she is back to her absolute best. After an indifferent World Cup, where India's star drag-flicker failed to get going, in part, due to a slow and bumpy pitch, Gurjit has powered her side to a magnificent win and is currently the highest scorer at the Asian Games.
Sjoerd Marijne feels that Gurjit always had the confidence but her teammates are helping her cause with better pushes and stops, and unlike London, the pitch at Jakarta is fast.
"She always had confidence, but she likes this pitch very much because it’s faster. Also, the injection and the trapping is better," said the Dutchman.
In an exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda after the match, the Indian coach said that the girls were delighted with the 4-1 win but captain Rani Rampal is still under observation following a thigh strain.
Tight marking upsets India's rhythm
Two girls in red shirts surrounded one Indian player in midfield, three did the same around the 25-yard line, and four Korean defenders converged upon Sjoerd Marijne's chargers whenever they managed to get into the attacking circle.
Memories of Donghae, it seemed, were returning to haunt the Golden Girls as they were just as clueless then as they were today when it came to getting past the watertight marking which the Koreans seem to have perfected.
The strikers were unable to weave their forward and every other pass from an Indian stick seemed to find a Korean player. Despite their initial struggles, Navneet Kaur gave her team the lead when she directed a superb deflection into the back of the net at the beginning of the second quarter.
The Koreans sprang to life immediately and launched a series of attacks which the Indian defenders handled admirably. The experienced Deep Grace, however, ended up pushing a Korean striker just as she was about to take a shot on goal and the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty stroke.
The stroke beat Savita but replays clearly showed that the ball had been dragged before the shot was taken. The on-field umpire, Ayanna McClean first blew the whistle for a goal but later had second thoughts and decided to consult Suzanne Heather Sutton, the video official. In spite of the obvious drag, the video official advised Ayanna to stick with her original decision.
The Indians seemed to lose their way after the equalizer, and slowly but surely, the Koreans began to take control of the proceedings. Cho Hyejin missed a sitter just before the long breather but the Indians hung on without conceding a second goal.
"I knew there would be space at the end"
The Koreans continued to attack but seemed to tire a bit towards the end of the third quarter as did the Indians, and a draw seemed to be the most likely result. With six minutes left for the end of regulation time, the Indians earned their first PC and Gurjit Kaur put the Indians ahead.
Instead of falling back to protect the lead, the Golden Girls seemed to have been rejuvenated by the goal and earned their second PC a minute later. Gurjit struck with a powerful aerial flick which, perhaps, would have been too good for any goalkeeper in the world.
The gaps in defence were now obvious as the Koreans had to attack with a high press and Vandana Kataria added to the tally to score India's fourth goal which effectively shunted the Koreans out of the match.
Marijne says he was confident the Indians would find space at the end.
"I knew there would be space at the end. It was important to keep the pace high so we could have the benefits in the end."
With this win, the Indians are almost certain of topping the pool and have also avenged the defeat which was inflicted upon them in the final of the Asian Champions Trophy. The Indian coach, however, says the girls want to perform well in every match and Donghae was not on his mind.
"The mood is good, and there is a lot of confidence, but we didn’t do it because we lost the Asian Champions Trophy final. We did it because we want to show our best performance in every match."
"Rani still under observation"
Rani Rampal is still under observation as she has a thigh strain, and Marijne says the Indian camp does not want to take any risks by playing her at this stage.
"We are not taking risks, and we will watch day by day if she can play," said the Dutchman.
The Indians play Thailand next, and Sjoerd Marijne refused to comment if his team would do anything differently if they were to face South Korea in the final.
"We don’t want to see that far. We first need to recover and play Thailand, and we are not looking further. Besides, we are not in the final yet. We want to start better and be disciplined."