Mumbai: Semifinalists at the Tokyo Olympic Games last year and third in the FIH Pro League 2021-22, the Indian women’s hockey team went into the Women’s World Cup in the Netherlands and Spain with high hopes.
The team, however, failed to live up to the expectations and failed to reach the quarterfinals after losing to New Zealand (in the pool match) and Spain in the crossover stage and eventually ended ninth in the World Cup.
The team’s chief coach Janneke Schopman expressed disappointment with the final outcome for the team in the World Cup but said the team is moving in the right direction considering the overall standard of play. According to her, the Indian team played aggressive hockey, created a lot of chances were faltered in capitalising on them.
“Our performance in the World Cup in terms of outcome was not good enough because we created a lot of PCs which is good but our execution failed and I think there are many reasons for that. We were troubled with the field a little bit, without injections a bit. I think it was a different field from the one we typically train in and that was something we had to adjust to. I don’t think we adapted well. I think it has to do with just being perfect in your execution. That’s something we look to focus on in the next couple of weeks before the start of the Commonwealth Games,” Janneka told the media in a virtual press conference from Nottingham in the UK on Tuesday.
She said one of the reasons the team’s performance was not up to the standard was because they had not played on the surface on which the World Cup was held. She also said India were not the only team that struggled with penalty corner execution.
“We were not the only team to be struggling with the field I, think (eventual winner) the Netherlands also did, I think they scored only in their 10th penalty corner in the semifinal. So, there was a matter of circumstances. But saying that, I take full responsibility as the performance of the team needs to be better and we need to train differently to execute better. I take full responsibility by saying that it needs to be better and we need to train differently so that we can execute (our plans) better in the field,” Janneke said.
Janneke said the biggest takeaway for her from the World Cup was that the team learned how to handle pressure.
“I think when you come into a tournament and we train very hard, you never know what pressure does to you as an individual. I think as a team we dealt with it very well and that is something I am quite happy with. There is pressure on you as an individual, especially if the performance you have envisioned for yourself at the start of the tournament is not going on. So, understand that this is what I can bring to the team. It is a bit difficult. All the players in the team made some good steps during the tournament, figuring out what actually happens to them (due to the pressure), what does pressure do,” she said.
India were in a tough preliminary group with England, New Zealand and China and finished with two draws and a defeat against New Zealand.
Janneke said the players were disappointed after the crossover game against Spain, in which India conceded a goal in the last three minutes to lose 0-1, but showed real character to show up and win the remaining matches to finish ninth.
“That was something, I was very proud of as a coach,” she said.
She said though it was disappointing to see where they eventually finished, there were a lot of positives for the team.
“I was very happy to see how the team in every game played as a unit and fought and they never gave up. That is something for me so, so important. One of the players said to me after the tournament that ‘we win as a team and we also lose as a team’. Very often what happens in team competitions is that if you lose it becomes an individual thing and I feel like we have come stronger together and the girls have put everything they have. As a coach, it’s just about accepting that you always don’t get the outcome that you want. We were very close to winning in many of the games we played and not in one game we definitely looked like the team that should be the losing team.
“That means that we are getting close to where we want to be and in the future, we will win more games than we lose. But in the end, we can’t always control the outcome. But we can control our performance and if we leave that on the field then I am very happy.
“There is always stuff to improve but I am really happy with what we showed and how we showed off (in the world cup),” said Janneke.
Senior player Niki Pradhan said the team has recovered from the setbacks in the World Cup and they are looking forward to improving their performance in the Commonwealth Games, in which the Indian women’s team won a gold medal in the 2002 edition in Manchester and finished fourth in the previous edition in Gold Coast in Australia in 2018.
“The mood in the camp is good and we are looking forward to doing well in the Commonwealth Games,” she said.
India are placed in Pool A along with England (with whom they drew 1-1 in World Cup), Canada (whom they beat in shoot-out), Wales and Ghana.