Antwerp (Belgium): Key defender Deepika’s injury sustained in the match against Australia is a concern for the fast-improving Indian women’s team ahead of the knock-out rounds of the Hockey World League Semifinals at the KHC Dragons Stadium here. Deepika’s fine show in the last preliminary league game against World Cup silver medalists Australia yesterday was marred by the nasty blow she received on her hand in the fourth quarter of the contest that India lost 2-4 after putting up their best show of the tournament.
Writhing in pain Deepika continued playing the game, but later left the arena with a bandaged arm, caused by the blow from an Australian striker’s stick. “She’s injured, but it is not a fracture,” said C R Kumar, manager of the Indian women’s team. The Indian team will be hoping she recovers fully in the two-day break before the quarterfinals, where India meet world champions The Netherlands, who topped Group A with four successive wins. India finished fourth in Group B, with three points garnered from a victory over lowly Poland in four outings. That victory keeps India on track for a chance to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Indian eves have not featured in the Olympic Games since their lone appearance in 1980. Three qualifying spots are on offer for the Olympic Games from this tournament, but even some teams that fail to make the semifinals can make it to Rio de Janeiro if the five continental champions throw up any dual qualifiers. An overlapping Deepika played a key role in setting up India’s first goal in the match against Australia where they twice drew parity before the world no. 2 side sealed their victory in the second half. Indian women team’s new chief coach Mathias Ahrens said the performance showed that his wards, featuring seven girls from the under-21 squad, had improved during the tournament.
It was a good show in the face of a strong opposition. I am happy with the way they created scoring opportunities, especially in the first half,” said Ahrens. “We could have scored some more goals.” Australia owed their victory to penalty corner shooter Jodie Kenny, who completed a hat-trick of three penalty corner strikes and then added another through a penalty stroke. India rallied through goals from Vandana Katariya, who deflected in Deepika’s diagonal ball from top of the circle, and Poonam Rani in a scrimmage during a penalty corner action. The coach said there was a lot more the girls need to learn if they have to become a force in world hockey. We need to improve in out control of situations,” said Ahrens. In the quarterfinals, Australia play Italy, Asian Games champions South Korea take on hosts Belgium and New Zealand meet Japan.