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India not overtly reliant on Rani Rampal for crucial goals: hockey coach Marijne

Mahima Katariya

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Rani Rampal

New Delhi: Rani Rampal’s strike might have earned the India a ticket to Tokyo Olympics but coach Sjoerd Marijne insists that the women’s hockey team doesn’t only depend on the captain for goals at crucial moments.

India qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Games after edged past USA 6-5 in the Olympic qualifiers in Bhubaneswar.

India had won 5-1 in the 1st leg and it was believed that the second leg would just be a formality after goals from Gurjit Kaur (two), Lilima Minz, Sharmila Devi and Navneet Kaur propelled the team to the big win. But USA gave India a scare, racing to a 4-0 lead at halftime.

It was only Rani’s 48th-minute strike that ensured India’s second successive Olympics qualification. But Marijne is not ready to look into the team’s struggle to score that hard.

“I don’t think that the team is too dependent on Rani, as she is not the only one who is scoring all goals for us. She is not leading the team by just herself. There are other players in the team who have been scoring for us,” the coach told to Sports Lounge.

“It is good that she is the captain and scored the winning goal but she can’t do anything without the contribution of other player. It is always nice when you see your strikers score for you,” he added.

The 45-year-old thinks that what matters most is winning match rather than performance.

“In such matches, what matters the most is winning them, and that’s what we did. We do realise that the performance could have been better but for now that’s not important.

“I am glad the girls gave their all and secured the win. The job is done and the pressure of qualifying is behind us. These were two very tough matches, both physically and mentally,” he said.

When asked to evaluate the team’s performance in the two-legged qualifier, the Dutchman said, “I am happy with the resilience in the two matches. Especially the second match because it’s not easy to come back from such disappointments of the first half. The girls played very well in the first match to win 5-1.

“I think the goals we scored in the first match eventually helped us. I was happy to also see that after going down 0-4, we did not lose our confidence, and kept believing in ourselves, and that was very good to see.”

To improve the team’s performance, Marjine has already gone back to the drawing board.

“We will analyse our performances. After that, we can see where we lacked in the two matches, and where we need to improve going forward,” he said.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will start from 24 July and stretch till 9 August. For its preparations, the team will play several Test series’ against different nations.

“We will not be playing in the FIH Pro League. In the coming few days, we have a camp which will start from November 18 in Bengaluru, where we undergo debrief from the two matches against USA, and focus on our fitness and conditioning. Then we have a break and afterwards, we are planning to play Test series’ in order to prepare in the best way possible,” he stated.

“We will start by playing New Zealand in January-February, and then touring England in March 2020. We are also scheduled to play in Spain in June. Apart from that, we are currently busy with planning and waiting for confirmation for the period after that.”

Marjine is content with the penalty corner conversion rate of the team, which contributes a large number of goals in modern hockey. He though disagreed that the sole focus should be on converting PCs.

“If you look at conversion rates around the world, our conversion rate is up there. Our players work hard to make every penalty corner. But this is also a reality that teams have started defending well from PCs. You have to be realistic about this, in women’s hockey you don’t score from every penalty corner.

“In Gurjit, we have one of the best drag flickers of the world. But percentage of goals in modern hockey are scored from open play, and not penalty corners. Therefore, I disagree with the question,” Marijne opined.

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