Ranchi: Hurtful. Disappointing. Those were the sentiments that coursed through the Indian hockey fraternity after the women's team failed to secure a Paris Olympics berth on Friday.
India lost to Japan 0-1 in the third-place play-off in the FIH Women's Olympic Qualifiers here to finish fourth in the tournament.
India needed to finish at least third to travel to the French capital.
Former Indian captain Ajitpal Singh termed the result as a "hurting" one.
"It was really disappointing. Missing out on a Paris Olympics ticket will definitely hurt after dominating for most part of the match. If you get so many scoring chances, including as many as nine penalty corners, and don't take those opportunities, it is going to hurt you," Ajitpal told PTI.
The legendary centre-half predicted severe ramifications after the defeat.
"Japan is a very good defensive side and they showed it today. The goal India conceded was also very soft. The ball went in between the goalkeeper's legs. There definitely will be consequences after this result," he added.
Dhanraj Pillay, the former Indian skipper, said the team will take a long time to recover from this defeat.
"Not being able to score a goal from nine penalty corners against Japan is not a small thing. By not qualifying for the Olympics, women's hockey will go far behind.
"The men's hockey team also took a long time to recover after not qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Now, there is a need to move forward and make the right strategy,' Pillay, who played four Olympics and four World Cups, told PTI Bhasha.
Pillay said this Indian side lacked experience in the absence of some senior players like Vandana Kataria, and also criticised the coaching staff for not giving a good run to the senior players before dropping them.
"In the last one and a half years, women hockey coaches were given complete freedom. But three-four experienced players wanted to return to the team but were denied the chance." "These girls performed well in domestic hockey and national games. It is in the hands of the coach to bring the best performance from seniors and juniors.
"It was not right to throw them out without giving them a chance. It's visible in this result," Pillay said without naming Rani Rampal, who was the captain of the team that won the bronze in Tokyo Olympics.
"Experienced players should have been in the team to guide the junior players. There was no coordination in the forward line, although the team missed Vandana who was injured," he said.
Pillay said it was not a wise decision to ignore Indian coaches for foreign names.
"I don't think that we need a foreign coach. We had an FIH qualified coach like Harendra Singh who was ignored. He is now America's high-performance coach and he has won us the Junior World Cup in 2016," he added.
Sardar Singh, a former India captain and the current coach of the Indian sub-junior boys' team said the team will be heartbroken after the defeat.
"I am very sad. We played well and deserved to win but if you miss so many penalty corners, it is going to cost you. The Olympics is the biggest dream of any athlete and the girls will definitely be heartbroken. They now have to wait for four more years," he said.
Sardar said the team should have shown more efficiency in attacking through the flanks.
"We should've used both the flanks with short-crisp passes to create chances but it was lacking today. We also started on a defensive note, if we had played attacking hockey from the first minute, the way we played in the rest of the match, the result could have been different," he said.
Former Indian player Viren Rasquinha took to social media to express his anguish and blamed poor penalty corner conversion for the defeat.
"Congrats to Japan for qualifying for Paris 2024. They defended like their lives depended on it. Indian women did everything, but score. We were not just clinical with our PCs and not composed with our chances.
"Huge disappointment that we did not qualify for our third consecutive Olympics," Rasquinha wrote on X.