While Indian men’s hockey team have already qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics by virtue of their victory in the Asian Games, the women have not been so lucky. Despite their 0-7 loss to the world champions Netherlands; Indian women still carved a chance for Olympic qualifications, when they beat Italy in shoot outs on July 02, 2015. Now they will have to beat Japan on Saturday to get the fifth spot and affirm their berth for next year’s Olympic Game at Rio de Janeiro. Currently ranked 13th in the world, India were unable to stand against the Dutch onslaught on Tuesday in the quarterfinals but they still managed to keep their Olympic chances alive. Having come so close, Indian women would be eager to cover most aspects of the Olympic qualification race in ensuring a victory over Japan and that would make it the first time for them in the Olympics since Moscow in 1980. Germany, Great Britain and China have already secured the three Olympic berths from the World League Semifinals in Valencia before the Antwerp semifinals began. The Olympic qualification process has become too complicated at this stage. Brazil have been allowed a leeway of making it to the Olympics if they can achieve the fifth place in the Pan American Games. But since in women’s hockey at Rio, Brazil are only a reserve team and they would participate only if there are any withdrawals from Pan American Games that begin in Canada in two weeks’ time. For India, this situation could allow them a kind of back-door entry even if they lose to Japan tomorrow because a sixth place team in the other World League semifinals is Spain. In a comparison between two such teams, the FIH rules provide for the choice between higher ranked teams. Since Spain is no.15 in the world and India no.13, India will get precedence over Spain in deciding the qualifications for Rio.
On Thursday, Indian women’s hockey team kept their Olympic qualification dreams alive, when they beat lower-ranked Italy in shoot-outs. The two teams were locked in a 1-1 draw at the end of 60 minutes of regulation time and therefore the decision in the match required a shoot-out. Earlier, India could not capitalize on several chances that came their way. In a match that hinged on sudden death, both teams failed to break the deadlock after scoring four times each from their five shots. As the match hung on the razor’s edge, Rani Rampal’s shot went into the goal. In return, Italian Giuliana Ruggieri couldn’t convert as India’s goalkeeper Savita brought off a spectacular save and India went through. Earlier, India’s experienced striker Vandana Katariya failed to convert and that brought lot of anxiety in the Indian camp. But Navjot Kaur, Anuradha Thokchom, Rani Rampal and Deepika successfully scored for India. For Italy, Valentina Braconi, Marcela Casale, Guiliana Ruggieri and Chiara Tiddi shot on target but Dalila Mirabella’s shot was saved by Savita.
India look forward to tomorrow’s match with Japan and must sort out the deficiencies in scoring. They can take heart from their victory over Japan in the bronze medal game of 2014 Asian Games in Incheon last October but they must remember that past records are no guarantees for future successes because the performance on the match day counts above all.