India beat China in a close final of the Women’s Asia Cup 2017, cementing their position as top team in Asia and qualifying for the Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018 as continental champions.
The result followed 10 days of scintillating competition between the eight top teams on the continent and the final was proof that women’s hockey is thriving in Asia.
That the match went to shoot-out, where Rani was the hero as she held her nerve to score the sudden-death decider, was proof of the tightly contested nature of the games between the Asia rivals.
India (FIH Hero World Ranking: 12) went into the final unbeaten as they topped their pool and then dispatched Kazakhstan 7-1 in the quarter-finals and Japan 4-2 in the semi-finals. They had earlier beaten China (WR: 8) in the pool matches by a convincing 4-1 scoreline but as anyone who watches China play regularly will know, they tend to save their best until the latter stages of the tournament.
That defeat aside, China’s route to the final was seamless. They came second in the pool behind India before beating Thailand 10-0 in the quarter finals and Korea 3-2 in the semi-finals.
And so to the much anticipated final. The first 15 minutes were played out in canny fashion with both sides testing each other’s defences but with no break through by either side. The break finally came, five minutes from half-time when Navjot Kaur put India ahead after some good build-up play from the Eves. Her goal, scored from open play, put India firmly in the driving seat going into the second half.
However, China are used to playing the waiting game and their structured and patient build-up play as they soaked up pressure before launching their own attacks was rewarded in the 47th minute when Luo Tiantian equalled the scores. Her shot was a rasping penalty corner that left Savita in the India goal with no chance of making the save.
It was game on for the last quarter as both sides strove to find the breakthrough and the winning goal. But, the whistle blew and the match went to shoot out. Even here nothing could separate the two as the score at the end of the first five attempts was 4-4. However, Rani put her shot home, while Savita saved from Liang Meiyu.
The result answered new Head Coach Harendra Singh’s call for both an Asia Cup title and qualification for the Hockey Women’s World Cup in London next July and August.
The bronze medal went to Korea after they beat the host nation and reigning champions Japan in a tightly-contested 1-0 game.
It was Shin Hyejeong’s goal from open play in the first minute of the match that separated the teams. The match was a see-saw battle but neither side were able to effect another breakthrough. As the match drew to a close, Japan (WR: 11) really piled on the pressure and Korea’s Hong Ji Seon was forced into making a tackle that saw her sent from the pitch with a yellow card. Despite this, Korea, who are ranked two places higher than Japan, set up a structured defence which was strong enough to keep the Cherry Blossom attack at bay.
In the battle to avoid last place Kazakhstan (WR: 34) put three goals past Singapore (WR: 40), while Malaysia (WR: 22) beat Thailand (WR: 31) by a convincing 4-0 scoreline to secure fifth spot.
Women’s Asia Cup 2017