Playing at home gives us edge in Olympic qualifiers: Rani

By Abhishek Upadhyay New Delhi, Oct 12 : The Indian women’s hockey team’s recent tour of England, where they played five Tests against Great Britain, would prove beneficial for the team ahead of the crucial Olympic qualifiers, according to captain Rani Rampal.

The tour ended on October 4 and Rani feels that Great Britain’s style of play is quite similar to that of the US whom India will face in the Olympic qualifiers on November 1 and 2 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar.

“The preparations (for the Olympic qualifiers) are going well. We have been preparing for these matches for quite some time now and we have to win them. Our camp will start on Sunday in Bhubaneswar where we will start our final preparations,” Rani told IANS.

Rani was in the national capital for the awards ceremony of the Fenesta National Tennis Championship.

The last meeting between India and the US ended in a 1-1 draw. Rani said the team has improved a lot since then and the fact that they are playing in front of their home crowd is always an advantage.

“Our team has improved a lot in the past one year. And our chances of winning is a lot more because we are playing in front of our home crowd. Whatever training we have done thus far, we will make it count in the qualifiers. I have full confidence in the team and we will qualify for the Olympics,” she said.

Out of the five matches that were played in the tour of England, India and Great Britain won one apiece while three matches ended in draws.

“Playing Great Britain before the qualifiers was a good opportunity. The US and Great Britain’s playing styles are similar, and we tested a lot of moves that we are planning to use against the US in the qualifiers,” she said.

“There have been times when we won a match because of a late goal. In the 2-1 win against Great Britain, the winning goal was scored very late in the match. So it’s not like how it was earlier when we would only concede late goals,” she said.

Conceding goals off penalty corners has been a headache for India, but Rani feels that there has been improvement on this front too.

“We have worked on this a lot over the past one year. Most teams in the world have been working on this. In fact, I think we don’t concede too many goals via penalty corners nowadays,” she said.

/IANS

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