All you need to know

The FIH Women’s World Cup 2022 is underway from July 1 with the 16 best teams in action across Spain and the Netherlands. India, coached by Janneke Schopman and captained by Savita Punia, will start their campaign on Sunday against England. Here’s all you need to know about India’s squad, draw, chances and more.

How did India qualify?

India qualified for the World Cup after finishing as one of the top four teams at the Asia Cup 2022. India, who came into the Asia Cup as defending champions, didn’t have a great outing losing to Japan and South Korea. But they made it to the semifinals to book their World Cup spot, and won the bronze medal after beating China.

What is the format? Who are India’s group stage opponents?

India are placed in Pool B along with England, China, and New Zealand. After their opening match against England (8 PM IST), they’ll face China on July 5 (8 PM IST) and New Zealand on July 7 (11 PM IST). All their matches will take place at the Wagener Stadium in Amstelveen, Netherlands.

All the teams in their respective pools will play each other once. The four top placed teams from each group directly qualify for the quarterfinals. The second and third placed teams from each pool will have to play crossover matches to make it to the last eight stage.

So even if India finish third in their group, they have a chance to make it to the quarterfinals if they manage to beat the second-placed team in Pool C.

Teams in Pool A: Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and Chile.
Teams in Pool C: Argentina, Spain, South Korea and Canada.
Teams in Pool D: Australia, Belgium, Japan and South Africa.

So, what are India’s chances in the World Cup?

Considering their form and the players, India have a good shot at the medals. They might not be favourties but they do have a team that can compete and upset higher-ranked sides. Because of the format, it’s not difficult to reach the quarterfinals and India are more than capable of topping their group to qualify for the quarters directly. Two more victories and India are into the final.

India made it to the semifinals at the Tokyo Olympics and finished third in their debut Pro League season, ahead of Belgium, Spain, Germany and England. Last month, they defeated Pro League champions Argentina (in a shootout), and narrowly lost the second game. In both the matches, India showed they can dominate and go toe to toe against one of the best teams in world hockey.

Who are India’s squad?

Goalkeepers: Savita Punia (C), Bichu Devi Kharibam
Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka (VC), Gurjit Kaur, Nikki Pradhan, Udita
Midfielders: Nisha, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Monika, Neha, Jyoti, Navjot Kaur, Sonika, Salima Tete
Forwards: Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navneet Kaur, Sharmila Devi
Replacement Players: Akshata Abaso Dhekale, Sangita Kumari

What are India’s strengths and areas of concerns

As noted by former coach Sjoerd Marijne, the Indian team’s identity didn’t change much since the Olympics but they have progressed to the next level after Schopman took over. This is more to do with the attacking hockey which was evident from their performances in the Pro League season.

Creating chances and scoring goals has not been a problem for this team. In 14 matches they played in Pro League, India managed to score in 13 of them with an overall tally of 33 goals.

India has players who are fast and move the ball quickly. Considering the amount of matches they played together, the midfielders and forwards have a good understanding about the gameplan. The likes of Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Sharmila Devi, Salima Tete, Neha Goyal and Monika have the ability to create and are effective with their finishing skills.

It also shows how well the team adapted in the absence of Rani Rampal, who played only one match since the Tokyo Olympics due to long-term injury and will be missing the World Cup.

However, defence is an area of concern. In the six Pro League matches the team played in preparation for the World Cup, they conceded 15 goals. In fact, they conceded 26 goals in this season’s Pro League, with a goal difference of just +7. And the numbers would’ve been more glaring if not for Savita’s goalkeeping efforts. Argentina (+25), Netherlands (+26) and even Belgium (+15), who finished below India, had a much better record.

Who are the players that can make a difference?

As mentioned above, India’s strength is their attacking game so forwards and attacking midfielders are crucial to the team’s chances. But two players who make a big impact with their contributions are Gurjit Kaur and captain Savita.

India will create chances and win the penalty corners. This is where Gurjit has to be spot on with her dragflicks. A good conversation rate of penalty corners can make a huge difference and we’ve seen that at the Olympics where her goals proved to be game changers.

Savita is one of the world’s best goalkeepers and we have seen what she can do with her performances in the goal at the Olympics and more recently in the Pro League matches. If she could maintain her form then India will benefit immensely.

What is India’s record at the World Cup?

This is the eighth time India will feature in the World Cup. Out of their previous seven appearances, India’s best place finish was fourth in the 1974 edition. In the last World Cup, India were eliminated in the quarterfinal stage after losing to Ireland.

Ranks in previous World Cup editions: 4th in 1974, 7th in 1978, 11th in 1983, 12th in 1998, 11th in 2006, 9th in 2010, 8th in 2018.

Who are the most successful teams at the World Cup?

Netherlands are the eight-time winners and four-time runners up. They are also the defending champions and will be the team to beat this time as well. Argentina, Australia and Germany have won it twice each.

When and where to watch?

India take on England (July 3), China (July 5) and New Zealand (July 7) in the group stage. In India, all the matches will be shown on Star Sports First. The live stream will also be available on Hotstar.

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