New Delhi, Nov 6 (PTI) A disappointing Asian Games campaign on its mind, the Indian women's hockey team wanted to set the record straight by clinching the gold medal in the just-concluded Asian Champions Trophy in Ranchi, skipper Savita Punia said.
Touted as favourites, India fell short at the Asian Games, losing to eventual winners China 0-4 in the semifinal in Hangzhou in October.
But the Indians roared back to form, demolishing all their Asian rivals, including China, to clinch their second Asian Champions Trophy title in Ranchi on Sunday with a 4-0 win over Japan.
"We came with a target. We wanted to set the record straight after the team fell short in the Asian Games. We wanted to claim the gold medal here, especially since it was being held in India for the first time," said Savita after claiming the ACT title on Sunday.
"We always take it one game at a time in every tournament. This time, the whole team had a point to prove and I am glad we were able to do so." India, who won the bronze at the Asian Games, will return to Ranchi and look to repeat the performance at the women's FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers, scheduled to be held at Marang Gomke Jaipal Singh AstroTurf Hockey Stadium from January 13 to 19.
"The team played a lot of attacking hockey. We took the initiative as we have the players suited for it and everyone gave their best to make sure we stand on top of the podium," Savita said.
"The aim has always been to bring our performances from practice to the pitch. Now, for the women's FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers, we have time to prepare and ensure we come back and perform to the best of our abilities." In recognition of their exceptional title-winning performance, which was marked by an unbeaten streak, Hockey India declared a reward of Rs 3 lakh for every member of the Indian women's team and Rs 1.50 lakh for each member of the support staff.
India played China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand in the round-robin stage of the tournament and won all five games to finish on top of the table with 15 points.
In the semifinal, India defeated Korea 2-0 to book a date with Japan in the summit clash.
India's chief coach Janneke Schopman appreciated the performance and mentality of her team throughout the tournament.
"As a team, we played very well and the intent to be better was seen in every player. We played some scintillating hockey. I am really pleased with the team's decision-making on the field," she said.
"The players chose to try variations on penalty corners depending on the situation. Neha risked a referral in the first quarter but she was confident and all those decisions worked in our favour. I like to see the decision-makers taking ownership." India scored a whopping 27 goals in seven games they played during the tournament to clinch the 'maximum team goal award'.
"We have a lot of people who can score goals and some solid defenders. This is backed by the fact that we conceded only two goals from the penalty corner and no field goals," Schopman said.
"We know we are good enough to qualify for the Paris Olympics and now it is just a matter of showing that you can perform at the same level again in the women's FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers after two months." PTI SSC AM SSC AM AM