Hockey Olympic Qualifiers: Udita has filled the space left by Deep Grace, admits coach Schopman

January 16, 2024
Indian women's team's head coach Janneke Schopman on Tuesday praised her defenders for their superb performance in the matches against New Zealand

Ranchi, Jan 16 (IANS) Indian women’s team’s head coach Janneke Schopman on Tuesday praised her defenders for their superb performance in the matches against New Zealand and Italy that sealed hosts’ place in the semifinals of the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers, and said she was more happy that her penalty corner experts were getting goals which has boosted their confidence.

Set to play World No.5 Germany in the semifinal on Thursday, Schopman would like to have her defenders Monika, Nikki Pradhan, Udita and Ishita continue in the same vein as that will be very necessary against a strong team like Germany.

Along with that, the 45-year-old coach was happy that Udita got two goals in the match against Italy on Tuesday. Though drag-flicker Deepika could not score off a penalty corner, she did convert a crucial penalty stroke that, Janneke said, will boost her confidence in the upcoming matches.

Udita has turned out to be India’s first-choice hitter on penalty corners and scored a goal in the first minute both against New Zealand and Italy. Janneke said they decided to let her take the first PC because they realised that their opponents tend to leave space towards the corner and Udita is capable of putting it in the corner.

The coach said that a year ago, Deep Grace Ekka was in the team and provided them with options as she could use the slap shot as well as drag flick.

“Look, till a year ago, Grace was the other slapper in the team and Grace also has a drag flick threat. So she has two threats. Udita just has to slap or just has to slap. But she’s very dangerous so I’m really happy. Look, she’s you know has a good mindset also she executes and so it’s going well. I’m I’m happy with that,” said coach Schopman of Udita who scored a brace of goals in her 100th match for the country.

“I mean look, we scout every team and we knew that there was space for that PC and of course, she (Udita) had proved successful in the previous match against New Zealand. But we knew that there was space there. Deepika wasn’t on the field for most of her PC, so it is a very good option and of need. And then we saw on that ball that almost went in on our second PC (that was saved on the goalline). So then it’s an easy choice and it is our best option because she could put it in a corner and it’s going to go in,” Janneke said after the 5-1 win against Italy on Tuesday.

She said Deepika getting a goal through a penalty stroke, was good for her confidence.

“Good for Deepika to get a goal too because you know to stroke it’s difficult and it boosts the confidence,” she said, adding that it has been frustrating for the young drag-flicker, who is facing a lot of pressure because of the absence of senior drag-flickers like Gurjit Kaur and Deep Grace Ekka.

“Yeah, it’s frustrating. Look, she has a good drag flick. She was flicking really well in training and then the one time she can flick we miss-trap the ball. So, but yeah, we discussed those things all the time and I was really happy.”

“Look, there was huge pressure I think on that stroke because we’re one now up and it’s just tight,” said Janneke Schopman.

She said it has been a difficult period for the team after it lost to the United States in its first match and said the players decided to play well. She said the same was the case before the match against Italy as they got to know that the Italians too were in the running and could reach the semis if they beat India by a four-goal margin.

“This game was difficult to play for us. You know everyone’s talking about goals and about ties and whatever, and in the end I said, look, we need to play hockey, but we weren’t really playing well, I thought, in the first two quarters. But yeah, I think we fought ourselves back in the game and it’s also a huge accomplishment,” she said.



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