London: A confident India will fancy their chances against lower-ranked Italy when they meet in a quarter-final playoff of the Women’s Hockey World Cup here on Tuesday. India finished third in the Pool B with two points — behind top-ranked Ireland (six points) and second-placed England (five) and ahead of the United States (2) with two draws and a loss. India finished third on superior goal difference.
On Sunday, world No.10 India had to earn at least a draw against world No.7 US and the two teams played a 1-1 draw, with captain Rani Rampal hitting the target at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre. World No.17 Italy, who finished second in Pool A, will look to make a strong comeback after their morale-shattering 1-12 defeat against world No.1 the Netherlands in their final pool game. The Dutch produced a stunning win to set a new record in terms of the biggest ever victory at a Women’s World Cup.
However, in their first two games, Italy showed that they can battle hard, having defeated world No.8 China (3-0) and No.9 South Korea (1-0). Rani feels India must take Italy as a serious contender and draw inspiration from their victory at the 2015 Hockey World League (HWL) Semi-final tournament where they beat the European outfit via penalty shootout.
“Italy is a good team and they have enjoyed good wins in this tournament too. But we need to go into the match with the self-belief that we can beat them and we must draw inspiration from that tournament where we beat them in a thrilling shootout,” Rani asserted, according to a release. “We need to just focus on ourselves, build on our strength and ensure we use our positive points in the match against Italy. There is no doubt we need to go all-out in this crucial match if we want to see ourselves in the quarter-finals.”
Sjoerd Marijne-coached India have conceded only three goals so far, thanks to goalkeeper Savita who has been outstanding. She has also been supported well by defenders Sunita Lakra, Deep Grace Ekka, Deepika and Gurjit Kaur. Gurjit has not been at his best in her drag-flicking though.
India, however, need to improve in their attack. Finishing has been a problem for India and Rani and Vandana Katariya need to combine well with other attackers to hurt Italy. Italy rely on Valentina Braconi, Giuliana Ruggieri, drag-flick expert Lara Oviedo and captain Chiara Tiddi to find the goals.