New Delhi: India women’s team chief coach Sjoerd Marijne and skipper Rani sounded an optimistic note ahead of the Hockey World League (HWL) Semi-Final to be held in Johannesburg from July 8.
A qualifying event for the 2018 Women’s World Cup, the tournament will see India take on hosts South Africa, the US, Chile and Argentina in Pool B.
The 18-member Indian squad had been undergoing preparations at the national camp here for the past six days ahead of its departure for South Africa.
“We played a couple of matches over the past one week against the India U-18 boys. The whole idea of playing these matches was to see how the team copes with handling speed, considering the boys play faster hockey. The physical aspect too was put to test,” Marijne said in a statement on Friday.
Earlier this month, the squad trained at the SAI Centre in Shillaroo, Himachal Pradesh, to get acclimatised to the testing conditions in Johannesburg.
Under scientific adviser Wayne Lombard, the team was put through intense training, with focus on improving speed, agility and attaining a greater level of fitness.
“We would do four sessions a day and it is not easy training so hard at high altitude. The sessions were very challenging but the girls are eager and excited to earn a berth for the World Cup,” Rni said.
“Barring a couple of us in the team, most of them have not participated in a World Cup event and that anticipation is driving the team to give their 100 per cent each session, each match and I am confident of a good show,” she added.
Ahead of their first Pool B match against hosts South Africa on July 8, the team will play two practice matches against England and Ireland.
“We can test ourselves against these two countries and analyse the areas we need to improve before we play our first match. While the recent camp was focused on improving speed and fitness, we also worked individually with strikers, midfielders and defenders, created more awareness about the techniques and strategies we need to adapt to and I am happy with the kind of progress the team has shown,” Marijne said.
The chief coach insisted that the team can excel if they stick to the structure and execute their plans effectively. He emphasised that he does not want the team to repeat the mistakes they made against New Zealand where they lost 0-5 in a five-match series in May this year.
“Here in Delhi, we tried out different activities in which tennis too was one of them. I wanted the girls to understand what unforced errors are in tennis. When we played against New Zealand last month, it was not that we played badly but we made unforced errors which led to them scoring many goals,” he said.
“If we can avoid these slip-ups, then I believe we stand a good chance.”