Even though the team was dealing with a few niggles, they still managed to defeat Korea 5-0 at the Asian Champions Trophy despite the fact that they only needed to win to secure first place in the pool stage and the playing conditions weren’t the best on Thursday night in Ranchi (with insects flying in large quantities). With five wins out of five, Savita Punia and company finished their group stage assignments and entered the semifinals — against Korea again – full of confidence.
Asian Champions Trophy: India Defeat Korea 5-0
India’s scoring were Salima Tete (6′, 36′), Navneet Kaur (36′), Vandana Katariya (49′), and Neha (60′).
“We don’t know how to take it easy… I also don’t know personally,” coach Janneke Schopman had stated. India put on a performance that thrilled the former Dutch star, especially in the third quarter. This kind of performance is not very usual.
The most important goal of the evening was the opening one. Amidst the scores of dormitory students here, Salima and Sangita Kumari, two Simdega players and local favourites, have already wowed the Ranchi crowd with some exquisite combo play.
However, the presence of coach Pratima Barwa, their mentor from the Simdega hostel, made it even more special. As Sangita dribbled down the left to set up Salima for the finish, the 44-year-old was grinning with pride.
Pratima exclaimed, “Bahut khushi ho rahi hai,” after receiving the goal following a thorough evaluation. ““I hope soon more players from Jharkhand are in the Indian team.” As the spotlight in the space she was seated in shone down on her, she said, “It is what I dream of”
Sulaksan Tete, Salima’s father, was also observing from the sidelines as he saw her play live for India for the first time. Salima’s player-of-the-match trophies and keepsakes had found their way into his grasp as the people left the arena and the lights were going off after the game.
India’s dominance was established by Navneet Kaur’s goal early in the third quarter. In this match, she also displayed her creative side and added a goal through a penalty corner. India led 3-0 and there would be another Salima-Sangita combo in the same minute.
The 301-match veteran Vandana, who was expertly set up by Neha down the middle and received an assist from Navneet down the right, celebrated her fourth goal with the same fervour as many of her other goals.
The Indian players had just enough time remaining to record Neha’s goal. “It’s been a while, and I got to celebrate a goal too at the end. My job is usually to create goals for my teammates, but tonight my teammates tried their best to get me to score,”
Although Schopman was happy with the team’s performance in the Asian Champions Trophy overall, she did point out a few areas for improvement as the competition draws to a close.“I am just annoyed that we give away half-chances at the end of the match. And the cards are a problem, to be honest. I told them to very quickly understand what the umpires allow and they don’t, I told them before the final quarter that the only thing I didn’t want is a card… and we got a card. The players know that needs to be better,”
On Saturday, India will play Korea again in the semifinals of the Asian Champions Trophy, and Schopman is aware that this time would be different because Korea was not happy with their performance the previous night. Japan and China, the gold medal winners at the Asian Games, will compete in the other semifinal. After defeating Japan 1-0 earlier in the day, the team led by Alyson Annan surged into second position.