Though they lost the match 4-3, India managed to finish third in Pool B, pipping China on goal difference, and qualify for the cross-overs.
The Indian women’s hockey team lost 4-3 against New Zealand in the final FIH Women’s Hockey World Cup 2022 Pool B match on Thursday but did enough to keep its quarter-final hopes alive.
Vandana Katariya (3’) Lalremsiami (43’) and Gurjit Kaur (58’) scored the goals for India at the Wagener Stadium in Amstelveen, the Netherlands while Merry Olivia (11’, 53’), Jopp Tessa (28’) and Davies Frances (31’) netted for New Zealand.
Though the result saw New Zealand top Pool B with seven points from three matches and clinch a direct spot in the quarters, India managed to finish third, ahead of China, to earn a berth in the crossover bracket for a second shot at making the final eight.
With England beating China in the other Pool B match earlier in the day, India needed to win against the Kiwis to top Pool B. To enter the crossover bracket, Janneke Schopman’s team needed to avoid a defeat by two goals or more.
India, ninth in the world hockey rankings, made a fantastic start with Vandana Katariya diverting a measured pass from Lalremsiami into the New Zealand goal early.
It was Vandana’s third goal in as many matches. She scored India’s equalisers against both England and China in India’s first two Pool B matches.
The goal helped India settle into the game early. The Indian women controlled the proceedings and could have scored two more goals if not for timely interventions from New Zealand goalkeeper Roberts Brooke.
Brookes first dispossessed Sharmila Devi from a 1v1 situation in exchange for a penalty corner and then palmed away Gurjit Kaur’s powerful drag flick from the set piece.
World No. 8 New Zealand did find an equaliser, much against the run of play, after Merry Olivia found the slightest of gaps between India goalkeeper Savita Punia’s pads from a PC.
The second quarter proved to be an entertaining affair with both sides enjoying phases of dominance but it was New Zealand who found the all-important third goal. Tessa Jopp nicked the ball off a defender near the Indian goal and slotted it past Savita to ensure the Kiwis take a 2-1 lead into the break.
Things got only worse for India after the restart as the Kiwis extended their lead through a Davies Frances penalty corner.
Knowing a heavier defeat would end their quarter-final hopes for good, India upped the ante but for most parts, had only fluffed penalty corners to show for it. The New Zealand defence looked solid and it seemed India would need to produce something special to breach their lines.
The moment of magic finally came through Sushila Chanu, who picked out Lalremsiami inside the New Zealand circle with a scorching long pass. Lalremsiami capitalised by diverting it past Brooke.
The late goal in the third quarter, saw India come out all guns blazing in the fourth and win a flurry of PCs. But Brooke and the Kiwi defence thwarted most of the early attempts.
However, the Indian momentum was cut short after Deep Grace Ekka had to leave the field after being shown a yellow card. New Zealand made the most of their numerical superiority and scored through another Merry Olivia PC.
While conceding one more would have seen their quarters hopes end, India showed a lot of resolve and found another goal towards the end. Gurjit Kaur finally managed to beat the otherwise exceptional Kiwi defence with a penalty corner to bring the scoreline to 4-3.
India and China both finished with two points each in Pool B. India, however, pipped their Asian rivals to the third spot based on goal difference.
India will now need to make a trip to Catalonia, Spain to face the second-placed team from Pool C at the Estadi Olímpic de Terrassa in their crossover match. The winner of that match will face Australia in the quarters.
India’s best finish at the Women’s Hockey World Cup came at the inaugural edition in 1974 when they finished fourth. In the previous edition, India could not go past the quarter-finals after losing to eventual finalists Ireland in a shootout.