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Asian Games 2018: "We had only one goal against which was not a goal," says Sjoerd Marijne ahead of big semifinal against China

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751   //    28 Aug 2018, 11:56 IST

Asian Games - Day 7
Can the Golden Girls go all the way at Jakarta?

With 38 goals in 4 matches and just 1 against, the Golden Girls have by far the healthiest goal difference at Jakarta. The absolute dominance of the Indians becomes evident when one considers the fact that the Chinese are a distant second, having scored a total of 28 goals with 6 against.

Incidentally, the only goal that the Indians conceded was off a controversial penalty stroke that was dragged and should have been disallowed. Deep Grace Ekka, who inadvertently or otherwise, pushed a Korean striker in the Indian circle prompted the referee to award a penalty stroke which was a fair decision considering the circumstances.

What was not quite so fair, was the fact that Lee Yoorim dragged the shot - much like a PC execution - which is not allowed in case of a penalty stroke. The on-field umpire rightly asked for a referral, and the dragging motion was clearly evident on slow-motion replays, but the video official ruled in favor of a goal.

The Indian camp was naturally upset, and coach Sjoerd Marijne now says that the video umpire's error was confirmed by the Games officials at Jakarta.

"We had only one goal against, and that was not a goal because the Korean player dragged the stroke. I received confirmation of this from the organization today. It’s not important anymore." 

In an exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda, ahead of the semifinals, the Indian coach looks back at what has been a magnificent tournament for his team thus far and promises to get even better.

"Rani is fine and ready for the moment"

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Marijne lauded the girls for their consistency in the tournament

The Indians did well to win 5-0 against Thailand after a barren first half but Marijne feels that the concentration of the girls was rather low in the inconsequential match and therefore scoring too became more difficult than it should have been.

"Yesterday's match was not important to us and you saw the concentration level was lower, and then it was more difficult to score. That changed in the second half and we did much better."

The Dutchman emphasized that fitness was not an issue even though the girls have played four matches and that Rani is now fine and raring to go. The Indian captain had missed the last two encounters as she had a thigh strain.

"We could manage to give some players more rest. Everybody feels fine and we are looking forward to playing. She (Rani) is ready for this moment. She had to wait with a lot of patience but finally, she can play and be at her best." 

When asked what he would tell the girls ahead of the big semifinal, the Dutchman said he wanted all of them to simply give their best, "Play the best game you can. The behavior has to be good. That means discipline, structure and focus on the game plan." 

Marijne singled out the quick passing game that the Indians recently adopted as the reason behind their goal-scoring spree at Jakarta, "Nice give-and-go hockey and a few good PCs, and the consistency was good too."

"Focus not on China, but on ourselves"

Harendra Singh was the coach when the girls won the Asia Cup last November, but Sjoerd Marijne had returned to the girl's camp when they played the Asian Champions Trophy at Donghae earlier this year. The Indians had beaten China comprehensively by a 3-1 margin in a pool match, with Vandana Kataria on fire, and Gurjit Kaur too at her best.

"We play China, but we feel confident against any team. We have to focus on ourselves, and show the same good behavior which we did these two weeks." 

History beckons yet again for the Golden Girls as they are a couple of steps away from a podium finish which they so thoroughly deserved at the Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, and, perhaps, at London last month.

Also, at stake, is a ticket to Tokyo 2020, and resurrection for coach Sjoerd Marijne.

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