No one will take India lightly at World Cup after Asia Cup win, says goalkeeper Savita Punia

India are ready to excel in the Women’s Hockey World Cup in England after their Asia Cup success, according to goalkeeper Savita Punia.

other sports Updated: Jul 19, 2018 20:48 IST
Sharad Deep
Sharad Deep
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Women’s Hockey World Cup,Asia Cup,Savita Punia
Savita Punia believes that the Indian team is quite confident ahead of the Women’s Hockey World Cup in England. (Twitter)

It will be fresh territory for all but two players in India’s 18-member squad when they begin their campaign at the Women’s Hockey World Cup in England on Saturday as they will be playing in the event for the first time.

Only skipper Rani Rampal and defender Deepika Thakur, who have played more than 200 internationals each, have figured in a World Cup, and they are expected to be the guiding force for a side aiming at least reach the quarterfinals. Deepika played in the World Cup in 2006 and 2010 while Rani, at 15, was the youngest in India’s 2010 World Cup campaign.

However, among the first-timers, goalkeeper Savita Punia has played 169 internationals while 25-year-old Reena Khokhan has just 14 international caps.

“We all are excited to play the World Cup as this would be a different experience for us,” keeper Savita said. “It’s almost the same feeling we had before we left for the 2016 Rio Olympics.”

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She said the team has matured since Rio. “None of us were happy with our performance there. It was after the Olympics that we really took it up as a challenge to make our presence felt at world events and not go as mere participants. Now, as Asia Cup winners, and having played well at CWG, other teams don’t take us lightly.”

One of India’s finest goalkeepers, Savita said: “Our game has improved a lot over the past two years and we play with a lot of speed. With a lot of players who have played over 100 matches for India; we have experience and youth among us. Though our focus right now is on our first match against England, the aim is to make it to the quarterfinal and beyond. It is a realistic target for us.”

Skipper Rani said: “I can feel the excitement level as in 2010 it was my debut in the World Cup, and it was quite a memorable one for me. Most of us have waited for this occasion since we won the Asia Cup last year.

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“Playing in the World Cup is always exciting. I am sure we would do our best to achieve something big so that our confidence for the Asian Games is further boosted.”

Chief coach Sjored Marjine sounded confident. “We’ve prepared well for the World Cup and started our training soon after winning the Asia Cup. Now, the girls are geared up to give their best at England.”

India eves’ best show at the World Cup came in the inaugural edition in 1974 in Mandelieu (France) when they reached the semi-final before finishing fourth after losing to Argentina 0-2. They have qualified for the World Cup only five times, failing to qualify on eight occasions.

First Published: Jul 19, 2018 20:48 IST