Donghae City, May 12: Dutch coach Sjoerd Marijne will hope to start his second stint with the Indian women’s hockey team on a positive note when the defending champions open their campaign against a tough Japanese side at the 5th Women’s Asian Champions Trophy here on Sunday.
Marijne started his stint with Indian hockey when he took charge of the women’s team in 2016. He was then shifted to the men’s squad last year for a period of eight months before going back to the women’s team earlier this month.
The reason for his removal as men’s team coach was the failure to bag a medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games last month.
Currently placed 12th in the world rankings, Japan have proven to be given India a hard fight in the past, often challenging them with a structured defence making scoring a Herculean task.
In the 2013 Asian Champions Trophy Final, Japan had beaten India in the final to win the trophy.
In the 2016 edition where India eventually won the title for the first time, Japan had held India to a 2-2 draw and had beaten finalists China in the pool stage.
India had lost 0-2 to Japan in last year’s Hockey World League Round Three in July but avenged that loss in the Asia Cup where they defeated Japan, who were the defending champions and hosts.
“We have always had tough competition against Japan. They are a quality team and breaking their defence early in the match will be crucial for us,” India captain Sunita Lakra said.
India can take heart from their 6-0 win against Malaysia in the warm-up match on Friday. The team, according to Sunita is high on confidence after doing well against higher ranked teams at the recent XXI Commonwealth Games.
“We want to make a good start to the tournament and the team is confident of it. We no longer go into tournaments as the underdogs. We have a winning mentality now and want to take it match-by-match here. We had a good warm-up match against Malaysia. It was for three quarters and the team played to structure. We hope to carry the same consistency into our first game on Sunday,” Sunita asserted. IANS