FIH Hockey Pro League:  "India tough to play against" says German Olympian Pauline Heinz 

Captain Savita Punia is all set to lead her side agaisnt the Germans
Captain Savita Punia is all set to lead her side agaisnt the Germans

Hockey action returns to Bhubaneswar as the Indian women's team take on a young and inexperienced German side in their third FIH Pro League encounter.

Savita and co. began their maiden Pro League campaign by swamping China 7-1 and went on to win the second leg as well by a more modest 2-1 margin.

Janneke Schopman's chargers continued their winning momentum against the visiting Spaniards, prevailing 2-1 in the first game before going down 3-4 thanks to a PC goal at the death.

The Germans, meanwhile, haven't played an international since last October when they were outplayed by the Belgians twice in a row and will have to contend with the heat and humidity of the Kalinga Stadium, apart from attempting to outwit the vastly experienced home side.

Pauline Heinz, one of two Olympians in the side, told Sportskeeda that the Germans did well to make it to the quarterfinals in Tokyo 2020, but failed to get the measure of a ruthless Argentinian side on a day when nothing went their way.

"We did quite well in the group stages. But against Argentina, things just didn't go our way as we didn't play our game. All teams have that one day when nothing goes right and the day of the quarterfinals was one such day for us."

As part of a virtual press meeting ahead of the weekend matches, the German camp made no secret of the fact that the Indians deserve respect going by the manner in which they performed at the Olympic Games.

"It's always tough to play against India as they are very aggressive in defence and also are quick with their counters," said Heinz, who was part of the team that beat the Indians 2-0 in Tokyo.

Star goalkeeper and India captain Savita Punia, whose stupendous work under the bar won India the 2017 Asia Cup final via a close shootout against China, reflected on her team's recent great run against their continental rivals.

"We usually have close matches against other Asian teams like China, Japan, and Korea. It was truly a happy moment for us and quite motivating to beat China 7-1 (in the Pro League game), but teams analyze our strengths and weaknesses post every game and we cannot afford to rest on our laurels."

Speaking about her new role as captain of the side, the ace custodian opined with a smile that she along with other senior members were part of the leadership team launched by former coach Sjoerd Marijne and that she didn't allow her new role to act as a stressor.

"When Sjoerd was in charge, he developed a leadership team comprising senior players like me and Deep Grace."

Seasoned defender Deep Grace was confident that Janneke Schopman's attempts to shore up the defence will bear fruit given that the coach was a defender during her playing days.

Schopman was critical of her team's efforts near the back lines against Spain and the girls are expected to tighten things up in their own circle when they take on the Germans.

Meanwhile, the Men's FIH Pro League matches between India and Germany, which were scheduled for the weekend, have been postponed due to some German players contracting COVID.

Women's team captain Lisa Nolte sounded upbeat as she described what it felt like to be playing in India for the first time ever.

"We are looking forward to the match. It is such an amazing stadium and a special moment for all of us to play here in front of a lot of people."

So, do not miss the action at the Kalinga Stadium as the Indians look to avenge their Tokyo defeat while the Germans seek to build a new squad ahead of the Women's World Cup later this year.

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Edited by Prasen Moudgal
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