Jakarta: Indian hockey’s cup of woes was filled to the brim as ace striker Vandana Katariya missed a golden chance to equalise in the dying moments and the women team went down 1-2 to Japan and along with that their hopes of regaining the medal after 36 years and a direct qualification for 2020 Tokyo Olympics died on the blue turf of GBK Stadium Hockey Field here on Friday.
It was a double whammy for India with their men team having lost to Malaysia in the penalty shootout in the semi-finals and this evening Japan stunned the women team to win the gold medal.
In an engrossing final, Japan made their intentions very clear of fighting out till the end and they did that never conceding a pace to their fancied rivals.
The FIH rankings went for a toss as the No 13 ranked Japan proved that on the field everybody starts equal.
The teams were levelled 1-1 at half time with Japan taking the lead in the 11th minute when off a penalty corner shot, Minami Shimizu deflected the ball home. The lead lasted 14 minutes as Navneet Kaur created a fine opening and Neha Goyal made no mistake in sending the ball home.
Japan scored their second goal in the 45th minute again off a penalty corner with Motomi Kawamura sending the ball into the cave and that turned out to be the winner.
The much-travelled Indians became tentative and lost their nerves in the closing stages of the match as they trailed 1-2. This was the period when Sjoerd Marijne coached team should have displayed nerves of steel and had remained cool.
The Indians, however, became shifty and nervous, they even changed their goalkeeper Savita in the last five minutes and went on attack with all the 11 players but luck was not with them because few seconds before the final whistle, it was team’s most dependable striker Vandana Katariya, who just failed to connect the ball into an open goal.
The Indians had major share of the ball and their defence was marshalled well by Deep Grace Ekka and Gurjit Kaur, who both foiled some good Japanese moves. Indians created many counter moves with Vandana Katariya, Navneet Kaur and Lalremsiami moving deep into the rival defence, but they failed to find the target.
Japanese girls were much faster and covered the turf with remarkable agility and especially after taking the lead they defended their citadel well.
Unlike Indians, they kept their cool, kept on clearing the ball at first instance and never played to the gallery.Their strategy was simple, hit and run, defend and counter attack, never hold on to the ball in own circle. Japanese players provided cover to their strikers and defence by running back and fro.
Indian did everything, but the luck was not with them and they had to settle for a silver. Earlier in the day, outgoing champion Korea suffered another setback as they lost to China 1-2 to finish fourth, while China took the third place and the bronze medal.