The Indian women’s hockey team would look to begin its Asian Champions Trophy campaign on a winning note when it takes on Thailand in Donghae, South Korea on Sunday.
First tournament after impressive Olympics display
The tournament marks the team’s first outing after missing a bronze medal by a whisker in the Tokyo Olympics. India’s performance in Tokyo was their best at the Olympics as they made the semi-finals, where they lost to2-1 to Argentina, who went on to win silver.
How have they fared at the tournament previously?
India had won the ACT title in 2016 before finishing runners-up to tournament hosts Korea in the same city in the 2018 edition. They had also finished third in the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2010.
Savita to lead in Rani’s absence
The team will be missing the presence of its inspirational captain Rani Rampal, who is recovering from an injury. Veteran goalkeeper Savita Punia will lead the team in her absence.
Savita said her team is geared up for the challenge.
“The team’s focus right now is to make a good start. This is our first international outing after the Olympics and playing the first match will always create some butterflies in the stomach,” Savita said ahead of the opening match.
Who are the other teams at the tournament?
China, Korea, Japan and Malaysia are the other teams in the single-pool competition.
Talking about the other opponents, Savita said, “We are looking forward to a tough challenge from hosts Korea and surely we cannot under estimate China or Japan who are Asian Games Gold medalists.
“After arriving here, we went through some good practice sessions on the pitch here to get acclimatized. It is a beautiful facility and we are not new to the conditions in this pitch. Weather is quite cold and getting used to this could be a bit of a challenge initially,” she said.
Rehearsal before the Asian Games
Savita also highlighted the importance of this tournament ahead of a busy schedule next year when they will defend the Asia Cup and also vie for the top spot in the Asian Games to ensure they book a berth for the Paris Olympics.
India play Malaysia in their second match on December 6 before facing hosts and defending champions Korea two days later. They play China on December 9 and Japan on December 11.
The final will take place on December 12 between the top two teams in the pool.