The first official edition of the FIH Women's Hockey World Cup was inaugurated with complete zeal and zest at Mandelieu, France in 1974. The European powers, long dormant for decades, were now picking up in both the disciplines of field hockey [men's and women's]. Following the successful hosting of the two World Cups for the men's genre, FIH had introduced the 1st Hockey World Cup for women.
Comprising 10 teams on an invitational basis, this World Cup not only laid foundation to the age-old rivalry for the top honors between the teams of Netherlands and Argentina, but also was the witness to the only time when India posed some serious threat to the world's best in women's hockey, a phenomenon yet to be repeated today.
League Matches: India surprise one and all
Not much was expected from the Indian women's hockey team when they departed for their debut World Cup. The first match loss against Belgium by 0-2 only drew away whatever little support the Indian team had. However, contrary to other's expectations, India shocked every other team with their superb coordination, defeating even the likes of Netherlands by 1-0.
Without any significant support, the Indian women's team had stormed into the semi-finals of the first ever FIH Women's Hockey World Cup. Even today, it is the only Asian team apart from South Korea (which clinched a bronze in the 2002 edition) who has ever dared to make it to the final four of the Women's World Cup.
Semi-finals -- So near, yet so far
The semi-finals were anticipated to be a tough fight, and so was it for all the four teams. The first semi-final between India and Argentina almost went to the tie-breaker, had the latter not struck a goal in the dying minutes of the game. The dream run for Indian women came to a tragic and abrupt end. They couldn't even have the consolation of a podium finish, as West Germany defeated them by an identical score.
44 years later, India is yet to cruise into the top eight of the FIH Women's World Cup, forget even a top-four finish. However, being no more the weaklings of Rio Olympics, we can be optimistic about the current Indian team preparing for the FIH Women's Hockey World Cup. Even a stint in the quarter-finals would be nothing less than historic for a team, that had almost won a World Cup in the debut edition.
Besides, a major chunk of this team including the likes of legendary players like Sushila Chanu and Rani Rampal, belong to that very team which had won a historic bronze medal in the FIH Junior Hockey World Cup for Women, 2013. So, their very presence should inspire the Indian eves to go for the kill.