Afternoon Voice

India beat Italy, enters quarterfinals

Their erratic campaign back on track, the Indian women’s hockey team would now be aiming to secure its first World Cup semi-final spot in 44 years by extracting revenge from giant-killers Ireland in the last-eight stage on August 2.

India registered their first win of the tournament by sailing past Italy in a quarterfinal play-off last night and if they manage to beat Ireland, it would ensure them only their second appearance in the World Cup last-four.

The only time India had managed to enter the semi-finals of the show-piece event was back in 1974 in Mandelieu, France where they eventually finished fourth.

Having come second best in their last two meetings, it would be quite a task for the Indians to beat Ireland. The Irish have been in ominous form having topped Pool B ahead of higher-ranked USA and India.

The Indians would take heart from the 3-0 win over lower-ranked Italy in the cross-over match.

But it won’t be easy as it is the same Irish side which beat them in the last two meetings — 2-1 in the Hockey World League Semi-finals in Johannesburg last year and then here in the pool stages.

The Irish would definitely come out as a confident unit but India would be banking on their new-found confidence.

The Indian defence led by talismanic Savita under the bar has produced a stellar performance throughout the tournament.

It was the forward-line which was lacking the sting but Tuesday’s night performance would do a world of good for the strikers’ confidence.

Skipper Rani feels India have gained confidence as the tournament has progressed and they would look to carry that forward going into the business-end of the event.

“Early in the tournament we didn’t do the one thing we needed to do score goals. But we have found the net now and we can definitely push on with our journey. We do not see that journey ending on Thursday,” she said.

It promises to be an exciting encounter as Ireland have already proved that they are no pushovers and the outcome of the match will eventually depend on controlling the nerves at crucial stages.