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The Indian Women’s Hockey Team once again impressed in defence but couldn’t stop Germany from winning their third consecutive game in the four-match series in Dusseldorf on Monday. World No 3 Germany won by a 2-0 margin through goals from Sonja Zimmermann (26’) and Franzisca Hauke (42’).

Encouraged by their robust defensive display in the second game of the series, the Indian side continued to frustrate the German attackers. The hosts were unable to create any early momentum and had a penalty corner saved in the first quarter. While Germany pushed forward to break the deadlock, the Indian backline stood firm yet again. Germany were awarded a PC early into the second quarter but still couldn’t find a way past Indian Women’s Hockey Team’s defence. The team managed to keep out three PCs in the previous game too.

Germany ended India’s resistance in form of a goal from the third PC. This time, defender Zimmermann made no mistake as the Word No 3 side started the third quarter with a lead. Germany doubled their advantage shortly before the end of the third quarter with seasoned midfielder Hauke getting on the scoresheet. The German side held on to complete their third successive win.

The Indian Women’s Hockey Team will take on Germany in their fourth match on Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 1630 hrs IST.

Goalkeeper Bichu Devi Kharibam’s career has been on a steep rise since making her breakthrough with eye-catching displays in the 2018 Youth Olympics, a tournament where India clinched the historic Silver medal. In the following year, she was named ‘Goalkeeper of the Tournament’ in the 4 Nations Junior Women Invitational in Dublin and was fast-tracked to the senior squad.

Bichu now has to compete with seasoned campaigners such as Savita Punia and Rajani Etimarpu for a spot in the Indian team. But the 20-year-old is calm about her role with the senior team and is relishing training alongside her seniors.

“Savita didi and Rajani didi help me a lot,” Bichu said. “I approach them with my doubts and are more than happy to help me out. Even they ask me about their weaknesses, and how they can go about correcting them despite me being new at the senior level. They treat me like a friend…or like a sister. They’ve given me a lot of love and I respect them a lot.”

Part of the Core Probable Group that is training for the Olympic Games, Bichu understands this is a great opportunity for her to make an impression and imbibe the qualities it takes to be a standout goalkeeper. 

“I get really excited just thinking about the Olympics. Because it’s such a big tournament, I have to work harder. I’m trying to absorb all the advice my seniors and coaches have been giving me,” she stated.

The Manipuri earned some much-needed game time during the team’s tour of Argentina last month. India didn’t get a win against the world No 2 side but were praised for the resilience and character they showed in each of the matches. 

“I was delighted to get back on the pitch while playing against Argentina,” Bichu reflected on her team’s first tour after more than a year. “We played with a lot of spirit and passion. I was nervous during the first game, playing after such a long gap. But it got better as time progressed.

“Previously, we used to be beaten by huge margins against Argentina, but I think, our defence held strong throughout the tour. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there,” she added.

For young Bichu, aspiring to play at the Tokyo Olympics is just the beginning. She has mapped out her plans for the future. “I want to play in all of them – Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, and as many Olympic Games possible,” she said brimming with determination.

Dinachandra Singh.

With their focused pinned on the Junior Men’s Asia Cup, India Colts began training today following a week-long quarantine. The 37-member Junior Men’s Core Group reported to SAI, Bengaluru on 6 February 2021 and underwent mandatory quarantine followed by a RTPCR swab test before resuming training from Saturday.  

The Core Group will vie to make the most of the National Coaching Camp which concludes on 1 May 2021. “The focus of this camp will be to improve our fitness, speed and create some match-scenarios to be best prepared for the Junior Men’s Asia Cup,” expressed Coach BJ Kariappa.  

“Since the Senior Men’s Core group is also housed in the same campus, we want to make most of their presence here and will plan a few sessions where the Junior players can get some match-practice against them,” he added.  

The Junior Men’s Core Probable list includes goalkeepers Pawan, Prasant Kumar Chauhan and Sahil Kumar Nayak while the defenders called-up are Sanjay, Cyril Lugun, Nabin Kujur, Sunil Jojo, Dinachandra Singh Moirangthem, Niraj Kumar Waribam, Shardanand Tiwari and Abhishek Lakra.  

The midfielders selected for the National Camp includes Gregory Xess, Sukhman Singh, Maninder Singh, Gopi Kumar Sonkar, Rabichandra Singh Moirangthem, Akashdeep Singh, Yashdeep Siwach, Ankit Pal, Vishnu Kant Singh, Mareeswaran Sakthivel, Surya NM, Darshan Vibhav Gawkar and Gurmukh Singh. Among forwards Amandeep, Rahul Kumar Rajbhar, Boby Singh Dhami, Arshdeep Singh, Shivam Anand, Sudeep Chirmako, Mohd Sadiq, Uttam Singh, S Karthi, Manjeet, Diljeet Singh, Araijeet Singh Hundal and Prabhjot Singh have been called-up for the camp. 

“With the mandatory quarantine period completed, we have begun training from today onwards and the players are all upbeat to make the most of this National Coaching Camp,” Kariappa said. 

Junior Men’s Core Probable List:  

Goalkeepers:  

  1. Pawan (Hockey Haryana)  
  2. Prasant Kumar Chauhan (Uttar Pradesh Hockey) 
  3. Sahil Kumar Nayak (Hockey Odisha)  

Defenders: 

  1. Sanjay (Hockey Chandigarh)  
  2. Cyril Lugun (Hockey Odisha)  
  3. Nabin Kujur (Hockey Odisha)  
  4. Sunil Jojo (Hockey Odisha)  
  5. Dinachandra Singh Moirangthem (Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy)  
  6. Niraj Kumar Waribam (Manipur Hockey)  
  7. Shardanand Tiwari (Uttar Pradesh Hockey)  
  8. Abhishek Lakra (Hockey Odisha)

Midfielders: 

  1. Gregory Xess (Hockey Odisha) 
  2. Sukhman Singh (Hockey Chandigarh) 
  3. Maninder Singh (Hockey Chandigarh) 
  4. Gopi Kumar Sonkar (Uttar Pradesh Hockey) 
  5. Rabichandra Singh Moirangthem (Manipur Hockey)  
  6. Akashdeep Singh (Hockey Punjab) 
  7. Yashdeep Siwach (Hockey Haryana) 
  8. Ankit Pal (Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy)  
  9. Vishnu Kant Singh (Uttar Pradesh Hockey)  
  10. Mareeswaran Sakthivel (Hockey Unit Of Tamil Nadu) 
  11. Surya NM (Hockey Karnataka) 
  12. Darshan Vibhav Gawkar (Hockey Maharashtra)  
  13. Gurmukh Singh (Hockey Haryana)
     

Forwards:  

  1. Amandeep (Hockey Chandigarh) 
  2. Rahul Kumar Rajbhar (Services Sports Control Board)  
  3. Boby Singh Dhami (Hockey Haryana) 
  4. Arshdeep Singh (Hockey Chandigarh) 
  5. Shivam Anand (Uttar Pradesh Hockey)  
  6. Sudeep Chirmako (Hockey Odisha) 
  7. Mohd Sadiq (Hockey Maharashtra)  
  8. Uttam Singh (Uttar Pradesh Hockey)  
  9. S Karthi (Hockey Unit Of Tamil Nadu) 
  10. Manjeet (Services Sports Control Board) 
  11. Diljeet Singh (Hockey Chandigarh) 
  12. Araijeet Singh Hundal (Hockey Punjab) 
  13. Prabhjot Singh (Hockey Punjab) 

Indian Men’s Hockey Team Defender Surender Kumar, who has played 133 matches for the national side, expressed that the members of the Indian Men’s Hockey Core Probable Group have improved tremendously since returning to the National Coaching Camp in January. Surender added that everyone is feeling very upbeat about their respective games.

“Last year was all about maintaining our fitness and getting back to our full form, which we did very well. Once we returned to the National Coaching Camp in January this year, we wanted to up the ante and raise the level of our respective games. By working on each of our skills one by one, we have improved tremendously in the last few weeks. Everyone in the Indian Men’s Hockey Core Probable Group is feeling really great about their respective games,” said the 27-year-old.

Surender further added that a strong defence line will be the key for India’s chances of winning matches consistently in the upcoming months.

“Now that we have raised our game to a high level, we are eager and ready to perform for our country in big tournaments this year. I think a strong defence line will be the key to our chances of winning matches consistently. If we ensure that our opponents don’t get goals easily, it will help our Forwards put pressure on them and create more chances for us,” said the Defender.

Surender expressed that the Indian team has been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to train at the Sports Authority of India campus during a very difficult time for the entire world.

“It’s been a tough phase for all of us and therefore we are very thankful to Hockey India and SAI for ensuring that we have a safe environment wherein we have been able to continue our training for the Olympics. It’s been fantastic to spend most of our time at the SAI campus in the last one year and get better at our game slowly and steadily,” said the Defender.

Indian Women’s Hockey team defender Gurjit Kaur reflected on her team’s recent tour of Argentina, their first assignment in a year, which concluded earlier this month. Despite not registering a win on the tour, the Rani-led Indians went toe-to-toe against the world no 2 side. Gurjit thinks the hard-fought series made her a better player.

“It felt great to be back on the field after one whole year. I am happy with my performances too, having faced a top side,” Gurjit said. “We competed well against them. If you compare our performances over the last three-four years, the team has vastly improved, and that bodes well for us going into future tournaments,” she added. 

Getting used to the rigours of bubble life comes with its own set of challenges. The 25-year-old thanked Hockey India and Sports Authority of India for helping the players acclimatize to their new environment. 

“Of course, it was tough to get back to a competitive arena during the early part of the tour. But, I feel, as a team we adapted quickly. It is only natural to feel a little rusty when you are away from a competitive environment or so long,” Gurjit said. “Life inside the bubble wasn’t easy but thanks to SAI and Hockey India, all the arrangements were in place.”

The Indian team were defeated 2-3 and 0-2 by the senior Argentina side. However, the visitors ended on a happy note, drawing 1-1 against Las Leonas in the final game of the tour. Rani and Co also faced Argentina’s junior and B teams.  

Gurjit is now looking ahead as the clock ticks down towards the 2021 Olympics. “Personally, I am satisfied with my performances. I will be sitting down with my Coaches to assess areas where I can still improve,” she said. 

“With the Olympics coming up, this was a good test for us. We are preparing well for Tokyo and will continue to get better,” Gurjit signed off.

Indian Women’s Team forward Sharmila Devi has been proving her mettle in every opportunity she gets. Be it her first outing for the Indian Team at the Tokyo Test Event in 2019 or the FIH Olympic Qualifiers where she showed her raw talent by scoring an important goal against USA which propelled the team’s 5-1 victory in the first match.

“I played my first match for the Senior side in 2019 and ever since then, I have been getting fantastic exposure with the team and I am happy to receive these opportunities and want to make each one count,” Sharmila expressed. In India’s recent tour to Argentina, she scored twice for India in low-scoring games that proved crucial for the team against a top-quality side like Argentina who are ranked No.2 in the world.

“The Indian Team was playing against Argentina after nearly four years. The senior players who had previously played against Argentina in 2017 recalled how strong a team they are and how important it is for us to execute our plans perfectly. Though we were quite effective against them and came very close to winning, I felt we should work a lot more on converting opportunities in the circle. We were making enough and more circle entries but were unable to convert,” stated the forward highlighting the area which they will be working on when the core group returns to National Camp on 14 February 2021.

The 19-year-old from Hisar, Haryana lauded the efforts of Hockey India in ensuring the tour was well organised despite these trying circumstances due to the pandemic. She also feels this exposure in Argentina will hold in good stead as the team prepares for the prestigious Olympic Games.

“Playing in Argentina was a very different experience. The opponent was no doubt very challenging, which made this tour exciting, but the way everything was organized and playing in a bio-secure bubble was a different experience altogether. Even the hotel we stayed at took extra care in ensuring our comforts and the food was suitable to our palate which is rarely ever the case when we travel. We are very grateful to Hockey India for ensuring a safe environment for us to compete. Though we are disappointed we didn’t secure a win, the lessons from this exposure will help us prepare best for the Olympic Games,” Sharmila said.

Riding on a brilliant start, taking a 1-0 lead in the 2nd minute of the game, home team Argentina beat the Indian Women’s Hockey Team 2-0 here at Cenard, Buenos Aires. This was India’s second match with the World No. 2 ranked side after matches with the Argentina Junior Women’s and their ‘B’ teams. In the previous match, India conceded late goals resulting in a 2-3 score line favouring the home team. 

In today’s match, early pressure created by the Argentina’s forwardline helped push India on the backfoot in the very first quarter. A foot-foul by Indian defender in the striking circle, gave away a PC to the home team which was well-capitalized by the experienced squad. Silvina D’elia scored the goal, in a tactically executed PC, fetching her team a 1-0 lead in the 2nd minute of play. 

Though India didn’t let this early setback dent their spirit and worked a disciplined structure to find opportunities in the striking circle, they could not manage to breach the strong Argentinian defence to score. “If you don’t convert your opportunities, you know the other team will and that’s what happened today. Our structure was much better in this match and that’s why in the first two quarters we created good opportunities in the circle,” explained Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne about India’s performance. 

After the early jolt, Indian defence ensured an effective formation that kept the Argentinian forwardline at bay. With no goals scored in the second and third quarters by either team, the match went down to the wire with intense play being showcased in the fourth quarter of the match. It was Argentina who showed their experience as they held sway to convert opportunities. In the 54th minute, a defensive error on India’s part saw them earn a PC. Agustina Albertarrio did well to convert the goal, eventually helping her team clinch a 2-0 victory. 

“Argentina was very effective in their PCs and that was, for me, the deciding factor today. We feel we are getting closer to win, but small mistakes can make a huge difference in the match especially against a top-class team like Argentina,” stated Marijne. 

India will take on the Argentina on Saturday, 30th January at 09.30pm IST. 

Rani in action.

Indian Women’s Hockey Team went down fighting against a dominant Argentina ‘B’ in a thrilling encounter. Despite a late surge by India, the home team secured a 3-2 win. For Argentina ‘B’ goals were scored by Sol Pagela (25′), Constanza Cerundolo (38′) and Agustina Gorzelany (39′) while for India Salima Tete (6′) and Gurjit Kaur (42′) scored. 

In the first quarter, it was India who got off to a flying start winning a PC in the first minute. An intentional foul by Argentina while defending the PC led to the visiting side being awarded a penalty stroke. Unfortunately for India, the goal was saved. Without letting this missed opportunity slow their rhythm, the Indian team struck in the 6th minute through young Salima Tete who has been in good nick this tour. 

“We had a very good start to the match and though we couldn’t score off the penalty stroke, we were able to convert after a good interception in the 6th minute. In the first quarter, we were in control and kept a check on Argentina but the second quarter, they upped their game,” explained Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne. 

A slump in India’s defence in the second quarter was well-capitalized by the experienced home team. Sol Pagela’s 25th minute goal equalized the scoreline to 1-1. But the game tilted in their favour when India gave away two goals in the 38th and 39th minute. “I believe these two goals could have been stopped. We had restricted their circle entries to just 5 in this quarter but allowed them to convert twice in those five attempts. Though Gurjit scored in the following minutes to reduce the lead by one goal, we missed some good scoring opportunities thereafter. I feel we were a bit too rushed in our pursuit to convert. We must do much better to win from Argentina in the next following matches,” stated Marijne. 

Playing the Argentina Tour after covid-19 restrictions kept the Indian team out of competition for a year, the Indian Team has tested their core group in the past four matches where they secured two draws (2-2,1-1) and suffered two narrow loss (1-2 and 2-3). In their upcoming matches this week, the Indian side led by Rani will face the formidable World No.2 squad. “In the third and fourth matches, Argentina played with an experienced side that had recently won against Australia ‘A’ and this was a perfect platform for our players to adapt to their level. In these four matches, all the players in the Indian core group got a chance to show their best. In the upcoming four matches we will field our best side to see what we can create against the World No.2 team. There have been good learnings from these four matches, and I want to see how our main team performs against them,” he said. 

India will take on World No.2 Argentina on 27th January 2021 at 0400 hours IST. 

Sushma Kumari

Maintaining their unbeaten streak during the Tour of Chile, an impressive and dominating performance from the Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team saw them defeat Chile Senior Women’s Team 2-0 in their fifth match of the overseas tour held here at the Prince of Wales Country Club on Saturday evening. The two goals for India came in the last quarter through Sangita Kumari (48′) and Sushma Kumari (56′).
 

It was a very open contest between the two teams during the first three quarters, with neither team managing to break the deadlock. There were chances for both the teams through open play and set pieces, but the defenses stood up tall to deny their opponents.

India looked like they were under pressure during a phase of play in the second quarter when they conceded back to back Penalty Corners, but some good defending inside the striking circle made sure the hosts couldn’t take the lead.

A similar story unfolded in the third quarter, but it was India who were on the attack, seeing a Penalty Corner execution being defended well by Chile’s Senior team in the 32nd minute. The hosts themselves had a Penalty Corner three minutes later, but again it was the defense who were successful.
 

What had become a tight and nervy contest by the start of the fourth quarter, it was India who drew first blood as they orchestrated a beautiful team move to open the scoring through Sangita Kumari (48′). The young Forward took her chance confidently, and maintained her goal-scoring form. Minutes later, Chile had a glorious chance to equalize through a Penalty Corner, but India’s rushers performed their task decently.

In the 56th minute, it was the visiting team’s turn to get a Penalty Corner, which proved to be the decisive moment in the match. A well executed drag-flick and a successful strike off a rebound by Sushma Kumari hit the back of the net, and extended India’s lead to two goals, which they were able to maintain for the remaining few minutes to snatch their fourth win in five matches in Chile.

The Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team will play their sixth and last match of the Tour of Chile on Sunday evening (locally) / early Monday morning (Indian Standard Time) as they face the Chile Senior Women’s Hockey Team at 0400hrs IST.

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