It started out as a wet and windy Sunday morning at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Center as the teams from Pool A locked horns to determine which of them would make it to the knockout stage. Defending champions, the Netherlands stormed into the quarterfinal while Italy and Korea qualified for the crossovers.
The rain had subsided in the evening just as India and the USA engaged in a do-or-die battle to progress to the next round from Pool B. Neither side was willing to concede an inch and captain Rani Rampal sustained a fall and hobbled off the pitch as early as the third-minute much to India's dismay.
The Golden Girls kept pressing hard, earned a PC, and defended stoutly, but Paolino Margaux scored against the run of play and put the Indians on the back foot in the eleventh minute. Sjoerd Marijne's girls continued to penetrate the attacking circle and earned a good number of PCs but failed to make them count.
A minute after the long breather, skipper Rani Rampal finally made use of a short corner to restore parity for the Indians and from then on they were back on the rampage keeping the Americans bogged down at the back.
Sunita Lakra and Savita did their bit to prevent the USA from scoring a second time and both teams ended the match with a goal each, and the group stage with a couple of points apiece.
A superior goal difference meant that the Indians have now progressed to the crossovers where they meet Italy on Tuesday. England has also made it to the crossovers while Ireland who was the first side to earn a direct entry into the quarterfinal will meet the winners of the India-Italy clash in Thursday's quarterfinal.
Ranked 17th in the FIH World Rankings, the Italians are the lowest-ranked team at the World Cup but surprised all by beating China and Korea to make it to the knockout stage.
In spite of their victories over the Asian giants, the Italians are by no means unbeatable, and if the Indians perform like they did against England and the USA, Sjoerd Marijne's girls will fulfill their primary aim of making it to the quarterfinal.
The Italians have been exceptionally good with their PC routines and the Indians cannot afford to concede too many. The Indian midfield will also need to counter Italy's pace and close their strikers down as they can prove to be a handful once they enter the attacking third in numbers.
Although the so-called weaker sides have humbled many of their fancied adversaries at London, the Indians may consider themselves fortunate to be up against the two lowest ranked sides in the competition ahead of the semifinals.
If Marijne's team do buck the trend and play to their potential, they have a golden chance to match or better their best-ever 4th place finish which they achieved in the World Cup at 1974.
For a start though, Rani Rampal and co. need to get the better of giant-killers Italy.
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Event: Women's Hockey World Cup 2018
Venue: London, The United Kingdom
Date: 31 July, 2018
Time: 10:30 pm Indian Standard Time (IST)
Telecast: Star Sports 2, Star Sports HD2
Live Streaming: Hotstar
Live Updates: SportskeedaPublished 30 Jul 2018, 19:41 IST