FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers: Germany book ticket to Paris in penalties while India wait

After a 2-2 draw, Germany beat India 4-3 in sudden death in the semifinal
German players celebrate their win over India in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers at the Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh Astro Turf Hockey Stadium, Ranchi, Jan 18, 2024.
German players celebrate their win over India in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers at the Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh Astro Turf Hockey Stadium, Ranchi, Jan 18, 2024.(Photo | PTI)

RANCHI: The mist was settling down even in the first semi-final of the day between Japan and the United States. However, it looked particularly scary leading into the second semifinal between India and Germany. Maybe it was a sign, like what they call 'foreshadowing' in movies, where there is an advance hint of what is to come later. And this fog like a thriller never left the Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh Astro Turf Hockey Stadium as Germany booked their ticket to Paris with a win in sudden death (2(4)-(3)2) over India.

It started with Germany preferring a balance in their XI while India looked more settled, unlike their opponents. Salima Tete and Baljeet played in tandem in the first quarter to help India put pressure. Germany felt the pressure and looked unsettled in the first quarter. With the full house, Indian defenders did well to deny early chances. India's tried and tested strategy of quick passes and speedy transition kept them ahead of the game and their defense showcased the growth they have made throughout the tournament.

All of that pressure resulted in India earning the penalty with a minute to go in the first quarter and their drag flick specialist, Deepika, stood up to the task and scored through German goalkeeper Julia Sontang's legs to give her team a lead. In the second quarter, local star Sangita took the responsibility to attack from the word go. This continued pressure from India led to clumsy moments from Germans and Selin Oriz received a green card.

Even with this pressure, Germany were able to create chances but couldn't convert it into a goal. It all changed in the 27th minute when Charlotte Stapenhorst found the back of the net as she flicked the ball over Savita to equalize after being closely marked. Calm under pressure surrounded by Indian defense, shirt no 12 did what she has been known for and both teams were in the deadlock at the half time.

Germany took the attack to the next level in the third quarter and forced India to play their best defensive game. The pressure kept boiling on India's defense. But they did not give any penalty or a goal. Defenders looked a little off the game in the closing minutes of the third quarter but lucky for India, it missed. Even with Vaishnavi's injury and Tete's five-minute suspension, the Indian defense kept the deadlock going. The boiling point of all that extensive pressure-building came with a goal as Stapenhorst came through for her side with a goal in the 57th minute. India did not give up the fight as Ishika converted the all-important penalty corner as the penalties became reality.

With the mist growing by the minute at the AstroTurf Stadium both teams geared up for the penalties. In the penalties, Sangita, Sonika and Lalremsiami scored for India, while Savita made two saves. Sonja Zimmermann, Nike Lorenz and Lisa Nolte scored for Germany. India were still in the game, but Germany showed their superiority in the sudden death penalties to book their berth for Paris.

Disappointed with the result, head coach Janneke Schopman said she was proud of the fight her team put up against one of the strongest sides in the world. "I am very proud. We know Germany is a very good team. I couldn't have asked more from girls. We fought the fight, but we were unlucky, I guess," she added.

Like some psychological thriller movies, the mist stayed throughout the game. At the end of the play it was almost invisible from the sidelines. Even with that India put up a commendable fight. It's not all over for Savita's side. The only trick is, they don't have a lot of turnaround time and Japan awaits.

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The New Indian Express