Asian Games 2018: With four recent wins against the Chinese, India start favorites in women's hockey semifinals
The Indians were assured of a semifinal place a couple of days back but coach Sjoerd Marijne had to wait until the very last pool match of the competition was played out before he could begin to chalk out his strategy for Wednesday's big clash.
Two results from Pool A earlier today have finally ended the suspense, and the Golden Girls will be up against an adversary they are well acquainted with. The Chinese have upstaged the Malaysians to finish second in their pool, and will now clash with an unbeaten Indian side in the second semifinal of the Asian Games Women's Hockey competition.
Forgettable World Cup for a depleted Chinese side
The Chinese girls had a lackluster World Cup where they lost 0-3 to Italy, the lowest-ranked side in the competition, and were thrashed by eventual champions, the Netherlands 1-7. China played out a 1-1 draw with South Korea and was eliminated from the competition in the first round, failing to make it to the quarterfinals or the crossovers.
Indian coach Sjoerd Marijne had informed Sportskeeda earlier that the Chinese had perhaps left 10 of their top players back home for unknown reasons. The Dutchman was wary of China's intentions and also hinted that it may have been part of a deliberate strategy ahead of the Asian Games.
At Jakarta, too, the Chinese were not particularly impressive. They did beat Chinese Taipei 9-0 but were held to a 2-2 draw against the Malaysians, and lost to Japan 2-4. As such, it was widely expected that Japan and Malaysia would battle it out in the last match to decide which of them topped the pool, as the Malaysians had a much better goal difference than the Chinese.
Japan beat Malaysia 3-1 to top Pool A but not before the Chinese sprung to life against Hong Jong. The Japanese had pumped in 6 goals against Hong Kong while the Malaysians had scored 8 in their respective pool matches- but, the Chinese thrashed Hong Kong by a margin which was more than the sum total of both combined!
As a result of the 15-0 win, it is China who has finished second in Pool A and will face India in Wednesday's semifinal.
The Chinese slid three places following the London World Cup while the Indian moved up by one slot. The Golden Girls are currently the higher-ranked team but have beaten China consistently and resoundingly even before the rankings were revised.
India has had the upper hand against China recently
The Chinese girls beat eventual champions India 3-2 in the group stages of the 2016 Asian Champions Trophy.
Since then, however, things have changed dramatically. The Indian girls turned the tables on China in the final of the same tournament in Singapore, and the 2-1 win was considered to be a landmark event and was the dawn of a new chapter for women's hockey in India.
India reaffirmed their continental supremacy to beat China in last year's Asia Cup final via a penalty shootout. In the group stages of the same event at Kakamigahara, India had prevailed 4-1, while in the Asian Champions Trophy earlier this year, the Indians beat China yet again by a 3-1 margin.
Coach Sjoerd Marijne was emphatic that his team had the confidence to beat the Chinese in Wednesday's semifinal, and with four straight wins in Pool B to their credit, the Golden Girls certainly have the momentum going their way.
Gurjit Kaur likes the Jakarta pitch, and her lethal drag-flicks can sink the best of teams, while Rani Rampal showed no signs of her injury as she played the role of a livewire and scored a superb hat-trick against Thailand.
The defenders have been as solid and tidy as they always are, and the Indian side looks perfectly capable of bettering their third-place finish which they had achieved in the last edition of the Asian Games at Incheon.
Following the disappointment of not making it to the quarterfinals of the World Cup, the Indian eves have pulverized their lesser-fancied rivals in Jakarta and will start as overwhelming favorites against China.