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Women's World Cup 2018: Historic semifinal within sight as fortune favours Golden Girls

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Can India create history in London?
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 30 Jul 2018, 07:58 IST
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The Indian camp may not have the luxury of an adequate period of recuperation before the Asian Games after all. Maybe, the itinerary would need some last-minute alternations as an extended stay in London is now a distinct possibility. The contingency plans will be laid out if required, with an abundance of joy and fulfillment.

"There is a gap of at least three days in between the pool matches, and that will not affect our fitness," opined Indian coach Sjoerd Marijne on the eve of the World Cup when asked if playing two big tournaments one after another was going to be a challenge.

"Beyond that, yes, the games are closer together, but let us see how far we get. Of course, we have back up plans for all eventualities," he added.

Marijne was right - if the rankings had not been thrown out of the window, the Indians could well have been taking a flight out of London early. A resolute performance by India in combination with a fortuitous turn of events now means that Rani Rampal's team are on the verge of history if only they seize the opportunity and play to their potential.

India lucky to avoid mighty Holland in potential QF clash

England who finished second in Pool B will no doubt dread the prospect of meeting defending champions, the Netherlands in the quarterfinal should they beat Korea in the crossovers. The Dutch have scored 26 goals in three matches and conceded just two!

Marijne's chargers will relish the fact they have, perhaps, a relatively easier task ahead. Standing in India's path are two European teams, who have been giant-killers for sure, but are unquestionably the two lowest-ranked teams in the competition.

Could the Indians indeed have asked for a smoother road ahead?

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If India play to their potential, they may well make the semifinals

A third-place finish means that India will face Italy, the lowest-ranked team in the competition in the crossovers. If they do manage a win against the Italians, India will face the Irish to fight for a semifinal spot.

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In spite of the bravado which the two European sides have displayed thus far, the draw presents a mouth-watering possibility for Sjoerd Marijne and his girls to achieve what no Indian side has ever done before.

Italy is beatable in spite of heroics

The Italians thrashed China and beat Korea but were humiliated by defending champions, the Netherlands en route to the crossovers.

True, the Italians ran the ball well and moved quite well too, but the Chinese were distinctly sloppy at the back to allow Italy to take the lead. Italy's second goal came via a PC while the third happened when the Chinese had taken their goalie off for a while at the end of the third quarter.

Korea did everything but score against the Italians and was distinctly unlucky to concede with five seconds left on the clock. and lost by a solitary goal

India's defence was rock solid against the English and against the USA too with Deep Grace Ekka and Sunita Lakra holding firm at the back. The Italians will be no pushovers, but the Indian defence has been far superior to the Chinese thus far.

The Indians would also surely have learned a thing or two from their loss to Ireland and will now be a lot wiser.

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Ireland good enough to beat India twice?

Earlier today, the English were all over the Irish girls and literally camped in Irish territory launching a barrage of attacks before winning 1-0. Goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran was outstanding as she has been throughout the tournament but the Irish were simply not as sharp as they were against India.

Perhaps, it was due to the fact that they had already qualified, but on the whole, the Indians have the quality to outplay Ireland if only they calm down, stick to a plan, and manage to break down the Irish defence by drawing them forward and forcing errors in the process. The Irish packed their back line with five defenders against India and the Indian strikers failed to advance in numbers and use quick passes to break them down.

Instead, they kept the ball a lot to themselves and involved in excessive dribbling which cost them dearly.

If this Indian team has the quality and character to beat England in the CWG, almost beat them again in the WC opener, and very nearly do the same to Australia in the CWG semis, it goes without saying that they are perfectly capable of ending the Italian juggernaut.

A 1-12 drubbing at the hands of the Dutch earlier today would have done little to raise Italy's confidence ahead of Tuesday's playoff.

Marijne's chargers will have to then dig deep, manage to sustain themselves physically, and chalk out a plan which they can implement effectively, against Ireland.

An opportunity of this nature, may not present itself again in the foreseeable future, and it is now up to the Golden Girls to rise to the occasion and create history.

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There is, of course, a need to remain calm as well and not jump the gun as the Indian coach pointed out in a brief but succinct message.

"Step by step" is the way forward said the Dutchman, but Marijne who has always believed firmly that the Indian girls need to do better than the men will know for certain that a determined effort now can well etch his name, and that of his team, in the annals of Indian hockey history.


Can the Indian Eves reach the semi-finals of the World Cup? Sound off your opinions in the comments section below!

Published 30 Jul 2018, 04:47 IST
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