India through to Women's Asian Hockey Champions Trophy finals: What it means for Coach Marijne and the future 2018?
It seems that the tragic miss of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018 is now a distant past for the Indian women's hockey team. Under their new coach Sjoerd Marijne, the women's team have stormed into their 3rd consecutive finals of the Women's Asian Champions Trophy, being held at the Donghae City in South Korea. They will now meet the hosts for a 'practice' match before the ultimate finals between them on the 20th of May, 2018.
With that, not only have the women's team gained some significant momentum before their next major challenge, the FIH Women's Hockey World Cup 2018, to be held in London from late July onwards, but have also restored the reputation of their current coach, who was criticized for his failure to land a 3rd successive podium finish for the men's team at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games, where they finished fourth.
The road ahead in the Champions Trophy
With 3 consecutive wins against Japan, China and Malaysia, India are through to the finals, along with South Korea. Their final match against the two time Olympic silver medalists, South Korea, is more of a practice match before the ultimate finals between the two Asian powerhouses.
Interestingly, India has had a mixed record against South Korea. The last known match played between the two was in 2016 Asian Champions Trophy edition, where the Indian team defeated the Koreans 2-1. As such, the women's team would like to take inspiration from those matches when they next play Korea tomorrow in their final league match.
The road ahead for Team India and Coach Marijne
Normally, a brilliant performance in Asian Champions Trophy isn't something to brag about. However, given the leaps of improvement Team India has made since their debacle at Rio Olympics 2016, there's more to it than what meets the eye.
Only last year, under the guidance of now men's team coach Harendra Singh, the women's team shocked one and all to win the Women's Asia Cup, defeating China by 5-4 in the penalty shootout. Though they failed to climb the podium at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, their 4th place finish is still one of the best performances since Melbourne CWG 2006, where they last broke into the final four, winning the silver medal.
A win at the Asian Champions Trophy will surely raise the spirits of the Indian team, as well as the coach Sjoerd Marijne, who is surely feeling at peace with the current performance, given the spate of criticisms he faced following the average outing as the men's team coach at the Commonwealth Games.
The current stint at Asian Champions Trophy will surely strengthen the Indian team's lineup for the upcoming Women's World Cup, where Team India aims for at least a place in the top 8, if not the ultimate podium finish. Going by the current performance of the Indian women's team, it doesn't look a tough task at all.
Can they make it?
Though the Women's Hockey World Cup 2018 is a challenge that won't be easy to overcome, the following tournament, i.e. Jakarta Asian Games 2018, is definitely the one that the Indian eves would look forward to this time.
It has been 2 decades since India last stormed into the finals of the Asian Games, with respect to women's hockey, and it has been more than 3 decades since they won their first and only gold medal in the Asiad till date, when they clinched the gold medal way back in 1982. The last edition was just a saving grace, when the Indian eves won a bronze medal at Incheon in 2014.
However, this time around, the women's team is a far cry from the distant past. Having stamped their authority once again as the new Asian powerhouse in women's hockey with their victory at Asia Cup 2017, the Jakarta Asiad is nothing less than a golden opportunity for Team India to recapture the Asian crown, and get their first direct ticket ever to the Olympics.
For those who are unaware, a gold medal in Asian Games is officially the first ticket for any nation to the field hockey event of the Summer Olympics. So if the Indian women's team wins the gold medal, they shall become the first nation to qualify for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics 2020, apart from Japan, who have already made the cut by the virtue of being the hosts.
Given the Indian team's current form, and their capacity to bounce back from any upset within seconds, one should not be surprised, if India storms into the Asiad finals, and make the cut for Tokyo 2020. If this turns out to be true, we only have coach Sjoerd Marijne and his Indian team to thank for that.Published 19 May 2018, 17:03 IST