Vandana Katariya is the top scorer for the Indian team with a goal each in the three games.

Janneke Schopman’s India barely made it out of the group stages of the ongoing FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup after a thrilling 3-4 loss against the Vantage Black Sticks – New Zealand. India had previously drawn two games against England and China. A win versus New Zealand would have taken them straight to the quarter-finals, but the Indian Eves had to settle for third place in the group. They will now travel to Terrassa, Spain where they will face hosts Spain in a crossover match. India ended their pool stage without any wins.

We look at the reasons why the Indian team struggled to win any game in the group stage of the FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup 2022.

Falling short at short corners

Penalty corners were a big positive when India finished fourth at the Tokyo Olympics last year. Sadly, the success hasn’t been replicated to that extent since. The team struggled to win and convert penalty corners in the Pro League and the short corner routines at the World Cup have been disappointing as well. The penalty corner unit led by the drag flick of Gurjit Kaur and hits from Deep Grace Ekka and Monika have only registered three goals from 24 attempts. Most experts believe that converting one out of every three penalty corners is a good ratio. India’s PC conversion stands at 12.5%, an area of concern before the crossover game against Spain. 

The last match against New Zealand saw the team struggle with simple traps and routines. While things like these happen in high-pressure situations, Janneke’s girls must make sure they grab every opportunity in Terrassa, Spain. 

Discipline

An area of concern for India since the start of their European swing starting from the six games in the Pro League to the three group games in the World Cup has been the accumulation of cards. 

In their three pool games, India collected seven cards – six green and a yellow. The team is now joint top with Argentina and New Zealand for most cards obtained. While tactical fouls are a part of the game, going down a player due to delays in penalty corner routines and not moving away quickly when an opponent is taking their free hit are unnecessary. India was trailing by a goal versus New Zealand when Deep Grace Ekka went into a rash tackle and got sent off for five minutes. A couple of minutes later, the Vantage Black Sticks took advantage and doubled their lead. A similar scenario occurred in the FIH Pro League game last month when India drew 3-3 to eventual champions Argentina. Navneet Kaur picked up a green card in the 44th minute and Agustina Gorzelany scored in the very next minute. India will need to ensure they play the Spanish Red Sticks at full strength at all times. 

Defensive Lapses

The team led by goal-keeper Savita Punia conceded six goals in their three pool games – one each against England and China and four versus New Zealand. The goals scored by England and China came against the run of play from the left side of the Indian defence. Space between the defenders allowed Jiali Zheng through on goal in the China game while a ball from the right side-line let Isabellle Petter scoop the ball past Savita against England. In the final pool-stage game, defender Udita tried to dribble out two metres away from goal and ended up conceding possession. As a result, Tessa Jopp was handed the goal on a silver platter. India’s PC defending unit also struggled against the likes of Olivia Merry and Frances Davies. With the knockout rounds beginning, these lapses need to be avoided at all costs. 

The biggest positive from the group stage has been Vandana Katariya. She scored in all three pool games. It was important for the experienced talisman to get back on the score sheet after a rather quiet Pro League campaign according to her standards. The pace of Lalremsiami and Salima Tete on the flanks has also impressed most fans. India needs to replicate the defensive performance they showcased against England, not conceding a single short corner. 

Spain’s midfield run by the lively Georgina ‘Gigi’ Oliva will be a tough challenge for the Indian Eves but they simply need to back themselves and mirror their impressive performances from the Pro League. 

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