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Women Hockey: India's hopes dashed as Japan triumphs in thrilling FIH Qualifiers

India missed a golden opportunity to participate in the Paris Olympics as Japan secured the spot with a narrow 1-0 victory over India

Women Hockey: India's hopes dashed as Japan triumphs in thrilling FIH Qualifiers

On January 19th, the Indian women's hockey team faced a setback as they were defeated by Japan, leading to their failure to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics after a close 1-0 loss. Another crucial match, which could have secured their spot in the prestigious tournament, ended in defeat for India. During the Olympic Qualifiers held in Ranchi, the Indian women's team participated in the bronze medal match in Japan but narrowly missed the opportunity. The ongoing FIH Olympic Qualifiers in Ranchi witnessed the hosts falling short of direct qualification, a setback that occurred during the Asian Games 2022.


India faced profound disappointment as the women's hockey team lost the tournament to Japan. Kana Urata's decisive sixth-minute goal from the penalty corner secured the victory for Japan. The qualification for the Paris Olympics was reserved for the top three teams from this tournament, and by securing the third position, Japan earned their place in the prestigious event.


Despite making some impressive circle penetrations, India struggled to unsettle the Japanese goal, forcing them into a position of playing catch-up. Despite India's strong defensive efforts, Japan maintained relentless pressure, ultimately earning their first penalty. Japan executed its game plan flawlessly, revealing vulnerabilities in India's start. Savita was put to work within the first two minutes, and by the sixth minute, Japan earned their second penalty corner. Kana Urata unleashed a powerful wide shot that deflected off Savita's left leg, finding the back of the net. The Indian backline faced tremendous pressure as Japan orchestrated defense-splitting dangerous crosses, but the hosts somehow managed to hold on.


As soon as the final hooter sounded, India's goalkeeper Savita Punia removed her helmet and headed directly toward the dugout. The rest of the Indian players, who had spent a significant portion of the final quarter positioned in the Japanese half in a desperate quest for the equalizer, followed suit, taking heavy steps one after another.


In the semifinals against Germany on Thursday, the Indian team suffered a defeat in a penalty shootout, missing out on the gold medal. Less than 24 hours later, the players woke up with the belief that they could replicate their performance against Japan. However, similar to their initial loss to the USA with an identical scoreline, they failed to exhibit the same finishing flair needed to overcome a determined opposition.


The Indian women's team, which has participated in three Olympics in the past, has faced its first instance of failing to qualify for the tournament since 2012. India debuted in the women's department at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, and subsequent appearances occurred in the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2020 Japan Games.