Women’s hockey squad leaves for Madrid to play 5 matches vs Spain

New Delhi, June 9 (IANS) The Indian womens hockey squad left for Madrid on Friday to play five matches against hosts Spain starting June 12 as part of their preparations for next month’s World Cup in London.

India’s ace striker and skipper Rani Rampal, who is back in the squad after being rested for the recently-held 5th Women’s Asian Champions Trophy in South Korea where the team won a silver medal emphasised that this tournament will be a good platform for the youngsters aspiring to make it to the squad for the World Cup.

“The youngsters did really well in the Asian Champions Trophy and in Spain matches if they can have a consistent performance then they stand a good chance to draw the national selectors attention ahead of the much-important World Cup,” expressed Rani.

Rani insisted that travelling with a 20-member squad will also ensure that the players are fresh for the tournament next month where they will begin their campaign against hosts and Olympic Champions England.

“It is very important to stay fresh ahead of the World Cup. With a 20-member squad, Chief Coach will have the option of rotating the players often. This tour in Spain will help us work on the areas that we lacked during the Asian Champions Trophy. Though I wasn’t part of that team, I personally felt that we played an attacking game, and kept the momentum up throughout the event but in the Final we missed a lot of scoring opportunities and could not defend well enough against Korea’s high ball scoops,” she reckoned.

With two major tournaments such as the World Cup in July and the Asian Games in August, Rani said, the Spain Tour will be their last chance to implement new changes in their game.

“We will be playing the World Cup after a gap of eight years. It will be a big stage for everyone in the team and it will be a first-time experience for many,” she said.

“We obviously won’t be going there as the underdog team especially after a good show in the Commonwealth Games. But the way we play in London will certainly have an impact on our performance at the Asian Games.

“Good wins with an improved goal scoring rate in London will provide the right build up for the Asian Games and the Spain Tour will be our last best chance to experiment too,” she added.

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