London: India qualified for the play-offs of the quarter-finals in the Women’s Hockey World Cup as they held higher-ranked United States 1-1 in their third and final Pool B match at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.
The Indian team displayed great character and a solid defensive structure throughout the match to earn the draw as captain Rani Rampal cancelled out Margaux Paolino’s 11th-minute goal.
With the first-placed team in the pool, Ireland, advancing directly to the quarter-finals, England finished second thanks to a 1-0 win over Ireland in their final match, and India were third — thereby both securing a spot in the play-offs. Although the US have two points, they went out on goal difference.
India needed at least a draw against the US to keep their chances alive for the last eight stage after playing a draw against England before losing to Ireland.
India started the match against the US on the front foot as they showed some quick passing, but had a scare in the fourth minute when their captain Rani was forced off with a twisted ankle.
The World No. 10 team won their first penalty corner of the match in the seventh minute, but Gurjit Kaur’s flick was saved by US goalkeeper Jackie Briggs.
India dominated possession and pressed the Americans but the 11th minute saw the US take the lead as Indian goalkeeper Savita was called into action when Erin Matson’s shot was saved by the showstopper. However the rebound was put into the back of the net through Savita’s legs by Margaux Paolino.
India looked for an equaliser and were threatening the US defence with some good build-up play; winning their two more penalty corners in the first quarter, but Gurjit Kaur’s efforts were not enough.
India continued to put pressure on the US in the second quarter which saw Rani’s drive being intercepted by a defender while the captain’s penalty corner strike was deflected away by Briggs in the first five minutes of this quarter.
The US earned two penalty corners late in the second quarter but Savita and her defence set-up foiled them, as India trailed 0-1 at the half-time.
After the break, Rani continued to make incursions into the box. In the first minute of the third quarter, she flicked the ball onto Michelle Vittese’s foot inside the striking circle. Rani slammed home from the resulting penalty corner to bring India level.
India displayed a great defensive structure throughout the third quarter as they denied the US any opportunity to create chances. In the 43rd minute, India’s Sunita Lakra made a crunching tackle to deny Michelle Vittese a shot as Savita cleared the ball.
In the final quarter, India maintained a nice balance of attack and defence as they stopped the US from gaining lead, as the match ended in a draw.
Rani said after the match: “I think both the teams fought well throughout the match, US had their chances, and I am proud of our team that we defended well throughout the match.
“We knew we had to take our chances against this strong US team, and we made sure that we earned this draw which keeps us in the competition.”