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Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats - Indian Women's hockey team at Tokyo Olympics 2020

India after losing to Ireland in the FIH Womens Hockey World Cup Quarter Final
India after losing to Ireland in the FIH Womens Hockey World Cup Quarter Final
Sambit Mishra
SENIOR ANALYST

The Indian Women’s hockey team qualified for the Rio Olympics in 2016 after a gap of 36 years. They previously contested the 1980 Olympics and finished in an excellent fourth position. After the 1980 and 2016 Olympics, the women's team will be playing their third Olympics in Tokyo this year.

Unlike their male counterparts, the women's side have often failed to inspire with their hockey in the last three decades. They qualified for Rio 2016 but finished in a disappointing 12th position.

The Indian women’s hockey team under the coaching of Sjoerd Marijne, however, pulled up their socks and played well to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Captain Rani Rampal’s goal in the FIH Olympic qualifiers helped India qualify for the Games. They have made it to consecutive campaigns for the first time in their history.

Last month, Hockey India announced a 16-member Indian women’s hockey team that will fight for India’s pride in Tokyo. The team will be led by their stupendous striker Rani Rampal, while dependable defender Deep Grace Ekka and the ever-reliable goalkeeper Savita Punia will be her deputies.

With just over a week remaining for the Olympics, we take a look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the Indian Women’s hockey team.


Also read: Indian Men's hockey team at Tokyo Olympics 2020: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats


Strengths

The team recently traveled to Argentina and Germany where they posed a threat to the top teams in the world. Although they failed to win all their matches, their performances were encouraging.

The team has experienced campaigners like Rani Rampal (241 matches), Vandana Katariya (240), Deep Grace Ekka (202), and goalkeeper Savita Punia (202), who have all played over 200 matches in their respective careers. The team also has eight debutants who will be looking to make their mark at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

The star-studded defensive line will have both vice-captains, while captain Rani will lead the attack.

The midfield will be led by 2016 Rio Olympics captain Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, with multiple youngsters including Neha, Nisha, Salima, Monika and Navjot lending her a helping hand.

The onus, however, will be on Rani and Vandana, two seasoned campaigners, to take India deep into the tournament. Youngsters Sharmila and Lalremsiami, who were in top form previously, will also look to make a mark at their first Olympics.

The team combination looks formidable with the players having played together for the last two years.

Sushilachanu (Credits: Instagram)
Sushilachanu (Credits: Instagram)

Weaknesses

India is currently ranked No.9 in the FIH rankings. Although the team has displayed excellent fighting spirit against the top teams in the world, they have often failed to end up on the winning side. With insufficient match practice in the last year due to COVID-19, the team will be playing a big tournament for the first time since the Hockey World Cup back in 2018 where they finished eighth.

Going by records, rankings, and past performances, it would be a tremendous achievement for the Indian team if they can qualify for the knockout stages at Tokyo.

Much will depend on Savita Punia and the defenders to keep the opposition strikers at bay. The old warhorses will have to pull up their socks if the team is to finish in the top four.


Also Read: Why do the Indian Hockey teams have only one goalkeeper for Tokyo Olympics 2020?

Also Checkout: Tokyo Olympic Hockey Schedule


Opportunities

With eight debutants and as many experienced players in the team, India have nothing to lose. It’s their time to show the world they can take the fight to some of the top sides.

Additionally, there aren't too many expectations from the women's team. This should also help them play without too much pressure on their shoulders.

The juniors and debutants have to be at their best to make sure that they don’t miss out on this opportunity. Youngsters like Lalremsiami and Salima Tete will be looking to cement their places in the squad. Both players also have the experience of playing Youth Olympics and can take inspiration from their performances back then to succeed on the Olympic stage.

Opportunities are aplenty for the Indian team at the Tokyo Olympics, and it remains to be seen if they can make them count.


Threats

India are placed in Group A with three-time Olympic champions, the Netherlands and Australia, and defending champions Great Britain. Their group also includes Ireland and South Africa. The group seems very difficult on paper for the Indians. Only one team, i.e., South Africa, is below the Indian team in the world rankings.

It promises to be a humungous task for the Indian team to defeat the likes of the Netherlands, Australia and Great Britain. Even defeating Ireland, who were finalists at the 2018 Hockey World Cup, will be difficult.

India will have to give more than 100% from Day 1 if they want to qualify for the quarters.

India during the FIH Women's HWC
India during the FIH Women's HWC

What can we expect from the Indian Women’s hockey team?

Ireland surprised everyone when they finished as the runners-up at the 2018 Hockey World Cup. So, who is to say India can't achieve something similar at the Olympics?

After all, the same core group of players have been playing together for a very long time and have built a solid chemistry within the team. There are enough positives for this side, and a team that has nothing to lose can destroy every other opponent on a given day.


Edited by Anantaajith Ra
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