India women have qualified for the Hockey Women's World Cup London 2018 after beating China 5-4 in a closely-fought final at the Women's Asia Cup in Kakamigahara in Japan. The match entered the shoot-out where sipper Rani Rampal controlled her nerves brilliantly and guided the Indian eves to win.
China got an early advantage as India conceded a penalty corner in the second minute of the game. However, Savita was at her best and padded it away and Navneet Kaur and Vandana worked in partnership to find space in the Chinese D but alert Wang Na denies the danger. India finds their first breakthrough in the 25th minute of the game where Navneet and Rani assist Navjot, who took a clear shot to give India a 1-0 lead. After that, China soon started showing their counter-attack mentality but Indian defenders were up to the task.
Although India dominated the first three quarters through some accurate passing and rotating, the final quarter was tense for India as China won a penalty corner through successful video referral in the 47th minute to level the score at 1-1. With the scores tied at 1-1 after 60 minutes, the match went to the shoot-out where Indian team performed at their best. Rani scored twice while Monica, Lilima Minz, and Navjot scored a goal each.
This win helped Indian team qualify for the World Cup 2018 and captain Rani stated that it was important for the team to enter next year’s mega event on merit.
"We are all extremely happy that we won the Asia Cup and have earned the qualification for next year's World Cup on merit," Rani said as quoted by PTI.
"We had a lot of young players in the team who showed great spirit in playing on such a big platform. The team gave a good fight to China and China too played equally well today and the match went into the penalty shoot-out.
"It was a high-level competition and we did not drop our level at any point in the game. Savita made a brilliant save in sudden death and I am happy I could convert that goal in sudden death."
Talking about the shootout, Rani revealed that preparing for tense situations helped the team pull through.
"We were not happy with our performance in Johannesburg at the World League Semifinal and right then the team had decided that we need to start winning in order to gain that confidence to perform well in top tournaments.
"We worked a lot on creating PCs and Gurjit worked hard on converting PCs during our camps. We were also well prepared for a shootout situation as we were anticipating the knockouts to end in shootouts. All the preparation helped us today," she added
The Hockey Women's World Cup 2018 will be held at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London from 21 July to 5 August 2018.