Indian women suffered a major jolt to their prospects of making it to the hockey final with an inspired Japan beating them 2-0 in the fifth and crucial match of the seven-team round robin tournament at the Al Rayaan Stadium on Saturday.
The Japanese struck in as early as the sixth minute when Tomomi Komori got a loose ball on top of the ‘D’.
She took a couple of backward steps to beat an onrushing India goalkeeper Dipika Murthy and then pushed the ball over her into the goalmouth.
India had hardly recovered when the Japanese struck again, this time through Chiba Kaori, who received a square pass from Tomomi and made no mistake in beating the India custodian with an angular flick in the ninth minute. Technically, India’s chances of making the grade have all but vanished.
They now have to wait for Malaysia to beat China and their own result against South Korea — and that too by a huge margin.
Men’s team in dire straits
With India scheduled to take on their nemesis in the previous Asian Games, South Korea, it’s going to be a do-or-die situation for the men’s team, who are standing at the exit door after the 3-2 loss in Group B against the Chinese.
Only a victory will ensure the two-time gold-medallist a place in the semifinals, while a loss would mean more than just the premature exit.
At stake is the Beijing Olympic berth as the winners and the runners-up here would automatically qualify for the mega event.
Chief coach Vasudevan Bhaskaran refused to say anything.
“You should have come during practice, now we are leaving (for the Áthletes' Village,” he said.
Captain Dilip Tirkey said that the team had practiced extensively in penalty corner conversion.
“Since it’s not possible to score many field goals, we practised penalty corners all through the day,” he said.