India vs China in FIH Pro League 2023-24: 5 hits and flops for the Indian team

Indian team suffered a 2-1 loss to China in their opening Pro League match for the season
Indian team suffered a 2-1 loss to China in their opening Pro League match for the season

India didn’t have a good start to their FIH Pro League 2023-24 campaign as they went down 2-1 to China at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Saturday, February 3.

The Indian team took the lead in the last minute of the first quarter as a cross from Lalremsiami was deflected into the goal by the returning Vandana Katariya. But China fought back fiercely to level the score through Dan Wen’s goal in the 40th minute.

The fact that so much time elapsed between India’s goal and China’s equalizer was quite surprising because China repeatedly created great opportunities to score. However, India got lucky on several occasions as the visiting team couldn’t quite provide the finishing touch.

This luck was bound to run out. And it got worse in the 52nd minute when Gu Bingfeng gave her team the lead. The 2-1 scoreline is a bit flattering for India as the Chinese team was superior.

One fact that shows the discrepancy is the penalty corner count. China got 11 while India managed just one.

Though the result didn’t go India’s way, there were some positives for the home team. Of course, there were many disappointing aspects as well. Let’s look at the hits and flops from this FIH Pro League game for the Indian team.

Hit: Brilliant debut for Sunelita Toppo

16-year-old Sunelita Toppo made her international debut on her home field. However, her performance didn’t betray her lack of experience or young age.

The player from Odisha was highly active right from the beginning of the game and didn’t seem fazed by the opposing team. The way she moved around the field and engaged with the opponents suggests that she is a very bright prospect indeed and could be the next big thing in Indian women’s hockey.

Flop: Sharmila Devi's error-filled game

Sharmila Devi had a tough time against China
Sharmila Devi had a tough time against China

While she is a very capable player, Sharmila didn’t enjoy a great game. The fact that the Indian team just earned one penalty corner shows that the attacking department had a bad day collectively. But Sharmila’s struggles were quite pronounced.

She made several errors and didn’t give her fellow forwards the kind of support they needed. The Haryana attacker is a talented player but couldn't showcase her skills on match day.

Hit: Navneet Kaur shows her dribbling prowess once again

Undoubtedly the best dribbler in the Indian team and one of the best in the world, Navneet once again dazzled the spectators with her stickwork. If only she had some support from other players, India might have put up a bigger challenge for China.

It is also required of Indian midfielders, who largely remained anonymous, to provide support to Navneet. If she is supplied well, she can use her skills to trouble the opposing defenses.

Flop: Indian defense has a bad day in office

Udita and her fellow defenders struggled against the Chinese aggression
Udita and her fellow defenders struggled against the Chinese aggression

Veteran Indian defender Deep Grace Ekka recently announced her retirement. This match showed how much she would be missed. The Indian defense in this match left a lot to be desired.

Despite the presence of players like Gurjit Kaur and Udita, the Indian team allowed the Chinese forwards to repeatedly create major chances, two of which they converted.

Initially, the Indians played a high press and this meant that they were vulnerable to counter-attacks. But the home team was able to see out that passage without conceding any goals. But the situation didn’t improve in the latter stages of the game.

The Chinese players got too much space in the circle and the defenders often made mistakes. Ishika Chaudhary was an exception to this but not much can be said about others.

Hit: Lalremsiami shows her quality

Though she didn’t score a goal, Lalremsiami was very creative in the front for India. Playing as a winger, she worked hard on the right flank and gave the cross for India’s only goal.

Her tireless efforts didn’t yield much for her team today but it’s a good sign for the team going ahead.

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