Women's FIH Series Finals: Marijne focussing on speed to counter South American tempo in semifinal
From captain Rani Rampal's powerful reverse flick against Uruguay which set the ball rolling - to Navneet Kaur's effortless scoop which sailed over the Fijian goalkeeper to find the back of the net, the Golden Girls have scored 20 goals in three matches en route to a place in Saturday's semifinal.
Opposition fight hard - but Indians too good in pool matches
The going was not as easy as the scorelines seem to suggest - the Indians had to scramble to don their protective gear as Uruguay managed to earn two back-to-back PCs early in the contest and tested the Indian defence for much of the first quarter.
The South American side, who are currently ranked 24th, managed to exert some telling pressure in the first fifteen minutes and managed to penetrate the striking circle on four occasions, while allowing the Indians just two forays into theirs.
The fearless Uruguayans were never in awe of the ninth-best team in the world, but a cheeky steal from Nisha led to a stunning move, with Rani scoring off a tomahawk which calmed the nerves of the Indian bench.
The Uruguayans continued to threaten the Indians up front but failed to score until Teresa Viana literally powered her way past a host of Indian defenders after Constanza Barrandeguy had made a scorching run down the right.
Viana's goal was one to remember - but the Indian eves have not conceded any since beating Uruguay 4-1. Rani and co. trounced Poland 5-0 before ending the pool phase with an 11-0 win over Fiji.
The Polish did latch on to the ball for large parts of the match but had only four circle entries to show for their efforts while Sjoerd Marijne's charges recorded 34 circle entries and converted two of the 10 PCs earned.
The Indians did better with their PCs against Fiji and managed to get six of the 16 they earned into the netting, but coach Sjoerd Marijne told Sportskeeda in an exclusive interaction after the match that he was far from satisfied, and that the Indians will concentrate on speed in training before the semifinals.
Gurjit Kaur missed the Malaysia tour in April owing to an injury but returned to the side which took on South Korea in May; the key drag-flicker is getting better with every match.
After scoring off a PC and a penalty stroke against Poland, Gurjit missed a hat-trick after a powerful strike hit the post. Marijne was pleased with the performance of his principal PC specialist but feels the team need to convert more.
"Yes Gurjit is doing fine, but there is always space for improvement. We gained a lot of PCs and as a coach, you always want more."
"Focus on speed ahead of semifinals"
In the semifinals, the Indians will face the winner of the all South American crossover to be played between Chile and Uruguay on Thursday.
Chile beat Mexico 7-0 and more significantly went past Asian Games champions Japan 3-1 before losing to Russia, while Uruguay thrashed Fiji 4-0 and played out a goalless draw against Poland.
Marijne was emphatic that irrespective of what transpired in the pool matches, the real tournament begins on Saturday and stated that his team will need to utilize the three-day break in a smart manner.
"We have to be smart how we manage the three free days to be ready for Saturday. It’s good we scored a lot of goals but the tournament starts all over again in the semis."
The knockouts may well be a different ball game as compared to the pool matches but the Dutchman stressed that the girls are well prepared and have been counseled with regard to approaching the big semifinal.
The focus, he said, would be on speed to counter the pace of the South Americans.
"We did this already in camp and spoke about this (the knockouts). This is not new for us. We will do a training session tomorrow where we will up the speed also."
The coach was pleased with the way young Salima and Jyoti have performed and opined that their growth augurs well for the future of Indian women's hockey.
"The youngsters worked hard and played with confidence in their first tournament. This is a good experience for them and it’s good for the future of India that they are here."