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Harmanpreet’s brace guides India to 6-1 win over Spain

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Antwerp (Belgium): Dragflicker Harmanpreet Singh scored a brace as the Indian men’s hockey team defeated world number 8 Spain 6-1 in their second match of Tour of Belgium here on Saturday.

Harmanpreet (28th, 32nd minutes), skipper Manpreet Singh (24th), Nilakanta Sharma (39th), Mandeep Singh (56th) and Rupinderpal Singh (59th) were the goal scorers as world number 5 India capped off a brilliant performance.

India started the match aggressively and almost immediately were in the ascendancy by creating problems for the Spanish defence with a host of circle penetrations.

Despite the possession, India found it tough to win a penalty corner or create clear scoring opportunities in the first quarter.

It was, in fact, Spain who won the first penalty corner of the game towards the end of the first quarter, forcing India’s goalkeeper PR Sreejesh into a fine, reflex save to keep the scores level.

India started making more inroads towards the Spanish goal in the second quarter, and forced Spanish custodian Quico Cortes to make some smart saves.

Finally in the 24th minute, it was captain Manpreet who broke the deadlock as he slotted home to give India the lead.

Within four minutes, the lead was doubled as Harmanpreet scored India’s second of the game from a penalty corner.

However, it was Spain’s turn to open their account as they pulled a goal back right before half-time, which meant the teams went into break with India leading 2-1.

India pressed hard after the change of ends and their efforts bore fruit when Harmanpreet scored his second of the day by converting another penalty corner in the 32nd minute to restore his side’s two-goal cushion.

Midfielder Nilakanta Sharma then scored a superb field goal in the 39th minute to make it 4-1 in India’s favour at the end of the third quarter.

India kept control of the game in the final quarter and showed their quality as they did not allow Spain any chance to mount a comeback.

In the 56th minute, Mandeep scored India’s fifth goal before Rupinder converted a penalty corner just a minute from the hooter to register the comfortable win for his side.

India will take on Spain again in the third match of the tour of Belgium on Sunday.

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Improved fitness to aid hockey team’s push 2020 Olympics berth, says Rani Rampal

Mahima Katariya

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Rani Rampal is bullish about India's chances in the Olympic qualifiers. @RaniRampal

New Delhi: Indian women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal believes that fitness plays an important role in any sport, and they have really worked hard on their fitness which will definitely help them to earn a berth at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“Fitness is a mantra to success. Our strength and capabilities have really developed as we have worked a lot on our fitness. Our graph has raised towards success in last two to three years.

“Everything needs improvement and development. So I believe that the next thing which needs improvement is decision making. We have to learn that how the decisions should be taken on the field and off field,” Rani told Sports Lounge.

Rani first came into notice when she played in the Champion’s Challenge Tournament in June 2009 held in Kazan, Russia. She became the top goal scorer and the young player of the tournament. She is also the youngest player to be nominated for the FIH Women’s Young Player of the Year Award 2010.

She was part of the Indian team the claimed silver in the Asia Cup 2009 for the Indian team and represented India at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

When asked about her motivation, she said, “There are so many former players who motivates me, such as Surinder Kaur, Suman Bala. They have played for almost 10 to 12 years for the country.

“Currently, I’m following Mary Kom. She inspires me a lot as she is a mother of four children and still a World Champion,” the 25-year-old said.

Mary has remained the face of women’s boxing in the country for almost two decades and has collected numerous awards including Padma Bhushan.

In 2016, Rani was awarded with Arjuna Award and later in 2018 Asian Games, she became the captain of the women’s hockey team where Indian bagged silver.

Rani believes that the team has improved under her captaincy. “I think, earlier also the team was playing well but we have really improved in last two years. But it’s a team effort. A captain can’t win a match alone. If the team won’t make an effort, the result will not come and we can’t win. We all are captains and we play as a team,” said the captain.

To participate in Olympics, India will have to face US in the Olympic qualifies held on November 1 and 2 in Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneshwar.

“First of all our focus is on the next Olympic qualifier held in Bhubaneshwar, on 1st and 2nd November. We have to give our best in that because if we will qualify in this then only we can play in Olympics and perform well,” said Rani.

According to Rani, women are doing better than men in sports. “Government has played a major role in improving women’s sports and indulging women in sports. Girls are getting more opportunities, parents are also believing in girls a lot. They are accepting their daughters as a sportswomen. And I personally think that women’s sports is doing much better than the men’s sports,” she stated.

Coming from a family where girls were not allowed to play any sport, Rani’s journey has not been smooth. “My journey was tough as I belong to a state where girls were not allowed to play. I also persuaded my parents. I belong to a very poor family. It was very tough for me to continue my sport,” she said.

“But there are many people who helped me a lot and I am here. So yeah I have really struggled and did hard work.”

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Manpreet, Rani to lead Indian hockey teams at Olympic Qualifiers

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New Delhi: Hockey India has named an unchanged women squad, to be led by Rani Rampal, along with the men’s team for the upcoming FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers.

The 18-member men’s squad will be captained by Manpreet Singh and seasoned forward S V Sunil will be his deputy.

Goalkeeper Savita will be the vice-captain of the women’s squad.

The two teams are scheduled to take part in the two-legged FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in Odisha where the World No. 5 Indian men’s team will be up against World No. 22 Russia, while the World No. 9 women’s hockey side will face World No. 13 USA.

The men’s team has two goalkeepers in P R Sreejesh and Krishan Bahadur Pathak.

Captain Manpreet leads the forward line which also includes Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, and Ramandeep Singh.

“After a good preparation tour in Belgium, it was always going to be a very difficult decision to pick the best 18 players for this tournament. We have chosen a well-balanced side with a number of good flexible options,” said men’s chief coach Graham Reid.

“We now need to focus on strategies against Russia, and ensure we are at our best when we step onto the field on 1st and 2nd November.”

The women’s team remained unchanged from its tour of England.

Experienced Goalkeepers Savita and Rajani Etimarpu will guard the goal, while drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur, Sushila Chanu, Navneet Kaur, Navjot Kaur and Sharmila Devi will serve as the outfield players.

“We have a good balance and mixture of players in the squad. It is important to stay in the rhythm with the same players who performed well in the preparatory tour. We now focus on making sure that we leave no stone unturned when we take on USA in the two matches,” said women’s team coach Sjoerd Marijne.

The winners of the Qualifiers will ensure place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Men’s Squad: Manpreet Singh (C), PR Sreejesh, Krishan Bahadur Pathak, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Surender Kumar, Gurinder Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Amit Rohidas, Nilakanta Sharma, Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, SV Sunil, Mandeep Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh and Simranjeet Singh.

Women’s squad: Rani Rampal (C), Savita, Rajani Etimarpu, Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur, Reena Khokhar, Salima Tete, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Nikki Pradhan, Monika, Neha Goyal, Lilima Minz, Namita Toppo, Vandana Katariya, Navneet Kaur, Lalremsiami, Navjot Kaur and Sharmila Devi.

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India-Britain draw before final clash

Press Trust of India

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Johor Bahru (Malaysia): The Indian junior men’s hockey team and Britain played out an entertaining 3-3 draw in their final round robin match of the 9th Sultan of Johor Cup here on Friday.

In a cagey first quarter, India controlled the pace of the game and were at the forefront of most attacks but unable to breach the Britain defence in the final third.

They won the first penalty corner of the game in the 11th minute. From the injection the ball fell to Dinachandra Singh whose shot on goal was parried by Oliver Payne. The two teams went into the break locked at 0-0.

India picked up pace in the second quarter and slowly started asserting themselves more in the midfield. The first clear opportunity fell to Gursahibjit Singh, released by a superb pass from Sudeep Chirmako. Gursahibjit’s shot though was dragged wide.

Soon after, Payne was called into action once again, this time when Sanjay went through one-on-one with the goalkeeper, who did enough to thwart the attempt.

India slowly turned the screw and chances fell in bursts with Sanjay dragging another PC wide before Britain finally got their first chance of the game. It came off a PC in the 27th minute, Ioan Wall’s dragflick giving them the first goal of the game.

India hit back almost immediately and if was not for Payne’s brilliance they would have had the equaliser via Shilanand Lakra. His reflex save though meant that India went into half-time trailing 1-0.

Britain were quicker off the blocks in the third quarter, and doubled their advantage in the 23nd minute via an Andrew McConnell goal.

Almost from the restart India won a PC. Mandeep Mor’s subsequent dragflick was saved by Payne and from the rebound Dilpreet’s reverse was cleared off the line by their defence. Despite India’s multiple circle penetrations and constant attack a goal eluded them. The teams went into the final break with Britain leading 2-0.

With their backs against the wall, urgency came into India’s play and right from the push back they wrested control of the game. Three minutes in, Mor grabbed possession on the right and directed a superb pass to find Shilanand Lakra inside the circle. Lakra’s superb touch and finish brought the margin down to one.

With momentum on their side, India pushed for the equaliser and soon they had one. Off a succession of PCs, each of which put Britain under more pressure, Mandeep Mor finally breached the rushers to score the equaliser in the 51st minute.

Britain knew they needed just a draw to qualify for the final but India were in no mood to drop the intensity.

In the 57th minute India were awarded a stroke, after Dilpreet was brought down illegally in the circle. Sharda Nand Tiwari made no mistake from the spot to give India the lead. With India now happy to defend, it was Britain’s turn to look for the equaliser, and with virtually the last action of the game. From a PC won in the 59th minute, Matthew Renshaw scored ensuring a rematch in the final.

The final will be played on Saturday.

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