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Hockey Olympic Qualifiers: India Need a Big Win Against Italy To Secure SF Spot

India women need to defeat Italy women by a massive margin to qualify for the semifinals.

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Hockey
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Having salvaged their campaign with a convincing 3-1 win against New Zealand, the Indian women's hockey team will be eyeing a place in the semifinals with a thumping victory over win-less Italy in their last Pool B clash in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers here on Tuesday.

The Indian team had made a poor start to their campaign, putting up a disjointed and error-strewn performance in the 0-1 defeat to the United States, failing to play to their potential and strength.

The team came back strongly in their second match at the Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh Astro-Turf Hockey Stadium here, setting a frantic pace and electrifying tempo to three stunning goals in the first quarter. Sangita Kumari struck within 40 seconds into the match, Udita converted a penalty corner with a brilliant slap shot while Beauty Dung Dung capitalised on a super move for the third goal in the 14th minute. Though New Zealand had reduced the margin in the ninth minute through Megan Hull, the Indians' defence held strong and helped the team emerge a winner.

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Where Do Teams Stand?

After spending Monday's rest day with a practice session for the goalkeepers and rest for others, the Indian team needs to beat Italy by a big margin so that they have a high goal difference in case of a tie with between more than three teams that is likely to happen in case New Zealand gets the better of United States in the previous match on Tuesday.

Going into the rest day, the United States were leading the Pool B standings with six points from two wins and a goal difference of +3. New Zealand are on three points, the same as India. Both have one win each and a goal difference of +1. The Black Sticks are placed second as they have scored more goals, 4 as compared to three by India.

In case both the games end in draws, the USA will go through with five points from three matches while India and New Zealand will tie on four points with goal difference coming into the picture.

What Are The Rules?

The group stares at the possibility of a three-way tie in case New Zealand and India win their respective matches. In that situation, New Zealand and India will join the United States at six points each, with two wins each.

The rules state that if more than two teams are in a tie on points, then a ranking based on the results of the matches among them shall determine their respective position, based upon the points awarded (three points to the winner, one point each in the event of a draw, no point to the loser), If there remains equality, then the teams involved shall be ranked according to their respective goal difference. In case of further equality between the two teams, the goals scored by both teams will come into force. If it is still equal, then the result between the two teams will resolve the position.

Thus winning big would be the only thing that would help them and thus India would be in a better position as they play the weakest of the teams involved.

Italy have lost both their matches so far, 3-0 to New Zealand and 2-0 to the US. If they play like they did against the Black Sticks, Janneke Schopman's girls should win by a big margin and improve their chances in case goal difference comes into effect. The hosts will clinch the second spot by beating Italy in case the United States hold New Zealand to a draw or win their clash.
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Race To The 2024 Paris Olympics

Coach Schopman felt the team was perfect against New Zealand because it knew it couldn't afford to lose another match.

Playing with their backs to the wall against a difficult opponent, the team came up with its best performance in recent times. The chief coach gave a lot of credit to the defenders for making the win possible.

"I think we defended really well. New Zealand is a difficult team to play against because of their highball threat. So yes, I think not perfect, but it shows where we are and it shows us where we want to go in this tournament," said Schopman.

The team will have to continue in the same vein if it has to seal a place in the semifinal and then go beyond that to grab the qualifying spot for Paris.

The match against Italy will only be a prelude to the bigger clash ahead as finishing second could mean India will run into the dangerous Germany in the semifinals. That would be another difficult encounter as the Germans have already got a wake-up call in the 1-1 draw the Japan. They will be at their best in the knockout stage.

The Indian team can't afford not to be at its best in the remaining matches.

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