TOKYO: After securing back-to-back wins over Ireland and South Africa in their final two games in the Group Stage, the India women's hockey team claimed the fourth position in Pool A to qualify for their maiden appearance in an Olympic quarter-final.
Team India will come up against Pool B toppers Australia, who have emerged from the Group Stage with a 100 per cent record of five wins in five matches.
Chief coach Sjoerd Marijne believes the onus will be on Australia, heading into the quarter-final clash on Monday. Marijne said, "The pressure will be on Australia as they are one of the highest-ranked teams in the competition. We will be able to play freely, which is very important for us."
"Our own focus is on approaching each game one at a time and to keep improving with every match. We have a training session today to stay in good rhythm ahead of the game, and then tomorrow we will take the field and try to express ourselves there," he added.
After a slow start to their Olympic campaign; which began with losses against the Netherlands (5-1), Germany (2-0), and Great Britain 4-1), India made a late surge to defeat Ireland (1-0) and South Africa (4-3) back-to-back in their last two games in Pool A and book their place in the quarter-final.
India will now come up against Australia in search of a semi-final spot in the Tokyo Olympics. The Australian team boasts the best defensive record thus far in the Tokyo Olympics, having conceded just one goal in the entire Group Stage and picking up an impressive 15 points out of 15.
However, Marijne insists that India must not get preoccupied with the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition ahead of the crucial match. He said, "We have to keep playing our game as we did in the Group Stage. We won our last two matches because we learnt from the mistakes we made early on and made improvements accordingly."
"We have been creating a lot of chances throughout the competition, but our conversion of those chances has not been up to the mark. We need to get better in that department, while also giving away fewer chances to the opposition," he added.
Team India captain Rani Rampal has led the team from the front so far in the Tokyo Olympics. Ahead of the quarter-final clash against Australia, Rani displayed full confidence in her team to emerge with a win against their mighty opponents.
"We showed a lot of character to win our last two games after facing disappointment early on in the Group Stage. Winning our matches against Ireland and South Africa while facing elimination speaks a lot about the determination and mentality of this team. Competing against a world-class team like Australia to get to the semi-final in the Olympics will require special performance from the team, and I am confident that we have the ability to achieve a special result. We will go into the game without putting too much pressure on ourselves and do what we do best - play hockey," said Rani.