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Hockey Olympic Qualifiers: India Need To Win Against Japan To Bag Paris Berth

#Hockey | India will lock horns with Japan to seal a spot in the #2024ParisOlympics.

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The Indian Women's hockey team suffered a hiccup in their pursuit of qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics, experiencing a 4-3 defeat in the penalty shootout against Germany during the semifinals of the FIH Women’s Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in Ranchi on Thursday. 

Despite this loss, the team still has a final opportunity to secure a spot in the Olympics. To do so, they must win the match against Japan in the third-place playoff match being played in Ranchi on Friday, 19 January.
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Following Thursday's loss to Germany, India women's team head coach Janneke Schopman admitted that it would be difficult for her players to take the field on Friday against Japan after the nerve-wracking defeat to Germany in the sudden-death shoot-out but said her girls will be ready for the clash with Japan as they want to claim a berth in the Olympic Games at any cost.

India defeated Japan on a couple of occasions recently, in the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou and also the Asian Champions Trophy at this same venue. But coach Schopman said those results won't count much on Friday as Japan will go all out with the Olympic berth on the line.

Having finished second to the United States in their Pool after a stunning 0-1 defeat to the Americans on the opening day, India faced World No.5 Germany in the semifinals and put up a grand fight, coming back from the brink of defeat to level the score 2-2 with just seconds on the clock. However, despite taking a 3-1 lead in the tie-break shoot-out, the Indians failed to keep their nerves and eventually lost 4-3 in the sudden death.

Goalkeeper and skipper Savita had pulled the team through regulation time and had blocked the first two attempts by the Germans but eventually ended on the losing side.

"You know now they're just disappointed and you need to give time to the disappointment to settle in. I think we can't reset, you know, now we have to reset tomorrow morning and that's what we'll do. And tomorrow we'll be ready. And I know they'll be ready. Some of them were already ready, others were not so much. So I think we just need some time," said Schopman after India's defeat in the edge-of-the-seat thriller.

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The 45-year-old coach said her players got a little bit impatient by their failure to breach the German defence and started playing the long and aerial balls into the circle, which gave their opponents a chance to take control of the match in the third quarter.

"Yeah, I mean, it's just like they get a little bit impatient (when they start playing aerial balls), I would say. And when we get impatient, then we start doing that. And I can't always blame them for it. You know, it's like they want to go to the goal directly and then it's kind of like the shortest way to do it," she said.

However, Schopman said the Indian players recovered in time and turned back to their strength.

"I think we caught ourselves back to, you know, playing short, playing Blue to Blue. And I think that was key for us today, that we were able to actually manage large parts of the game quite well and not all the game," she said.

She said her's is a good team as it fought till the end.

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"That match is again a bit pressure game as the Olympic berth is the big thing and it is the most important thing for us," she said, adding though her girls are disappointed, they keep fighting.

"We have to show up and we have to keep fighting and we need to keep fighting. And I think you know the fact that we do this now then maybe our quality will shine through like we don't have a guarantee tomorrow. Japan also wants to win. Japan also wants to go to Paris," she said.

She said even if her team fails to make it to the Olympics, what she wants is for them to do whatever they can in the end.

"So we'll fight with our heart and the only thing we can do is show up and hopefully we show up well enough that we can take that qualification. And if not, then we just have to make sure that we did everything we could to clinch the Olympic berth," said Schopman.

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