India’s women’s hockey team are set to take on world No. 1 Netherlands in their next round of FIH Hockey Pro League matches which will take place on April 8-9 at Kalinga Hockey Stadium. Captain Savita expressed his excitement at the prospect of taking on the Olympic champions in a double header.
“Our team is really excited to face the Netherlands. It doesn’t matter if they came without experienced players because it won’t change their style of play. They came with a young team, but that doesn’t mean that they will take things casually. Their young players have had their chance, so I think they will definitely give their best. Our approach will remain the same as always and we will focus on ourselves,” said Savita.
The last time the two teams faced each other was at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in their group stage match where India lost 1-5 and the Netherlands won the gold medal Olympic. “It’s great that we have the chance to play the Netherlands again at home, so of course we’ll do our best and enjoy the games,” Savita said.
“We will face them for the first time since the Olympics. We trained hard every day in this wave, so we hope to do well in both matches,” added India women’s team vice-captain Deep Grace Ekka. .
Hosts India are currently fourth in the points standings, with 12 points. They began their campaign with victories against China (7-1 and 2-1) in Muscat followed by a 2-1 victory and a 3-4 loss against Spain in February 2022 at home and in their last outing they recorded a 1-1 loss (1-2 SO) and a 1-1 victory (3-0 SO) against Germany.
Reflecting on the campaign so far, goalkeeper Savita said: “Before, we were hardly used to playing against top teams. We never played continuous matches against such teams. before, and that’s the best thing about the Pro League. These games help us improve. You know, it’s kind of an achievement that teams are ready to play against us. It motivates us and also shows that we are standing somewhere in the world.
She added: “Of course the points are important for us because we want to finish in a good position to have the chance to play in the Pro League again because it will help us in the preparation for the Paris Olympics. However, with various major tournaments lined up, our goal has been to improve game by game and just enjoy our game.”
The Netherlands, meanwhile, currently leads the table with 17 points. In their six matches so far, they beat Belgium 2-0 and 3-1 in October and November last year, followed by 1-0 and 2-2 (3-2 SO) wins against Spain in February and earlier this month they recorded 3-0 and 10-0 wins over the USA.
Speaking on the eve of the first game, Netherlands caretaker coach Joost Bitterling said: “I think for young girls it’s a dream to play in this kind of stadium, in this kind of game, so they’re really excited. I’m also excited, a little nervous at the same time, but that’s okay because in the end, that’s what we do, that’s what we love. The players and I’m really looking forward to it, and curious about what we can do.”
“India are a skillful team, with a very good coach. They have raised their level and I think it’s a great opportunity for us to play against India and try to win these kinds of games like us. we hope so,” added Bitterling.
Speaking about the team’s preparation, Dutch captain Yibbi Jansen said: “Last weekend we played against the United States, so that was our preparation for this week. We came with a more young, we had our first training session today, and it was really good to train and play in such a big stadium. So, we are just ready for the games.”
Meanwhile, the Dutch coach added: “We also have a few young girls with us, who trained separately from the group that played against the United States. Hopefully tomorrow we try to pull ourselves together, and we are waiting for the looking forward to matches.” Asked about the team’s handling of the hot weather conditions, Renée van Laarhove, who will lead the Netherlands in one of the two games, said: “We have just had the first training to experience the heat and of course it’s a bit different to the weather in the Netherlands. We only use cold wet towels and drink a lot to stay cool during games. We don’t have days to prepare and that will be tough for us, but we’ll get through it well. We’ve played in Argentina before where the conditions were similar.”
“We can’t change it. So it is what it is, and we have to accept it because in the end we have to play and it doesn’t matter what the weather conditions are,” concluded Bitterling.
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