As the women’s hockey competition at the 18th Asian Games reaches its exciting conclusion, we recap on what has happened so far at a event that has seen some fantastic matches, some drama and upset and, ultimately, has two of the most exciting teams playing for the gold medal.
While the competition has thrown up some big score-lines there have also been some fascinating and closely-fought encounters that have provided not just a showcase for women’s team sport but also evidence of how far hockey is developing across Asia.
The 2-1 victory of lowest-ranked team Indonesia (WR:64) over Kazakhstan (WR:34) saw the Indonesian players kneeling on the ground exhausted but elated; and in the following match Hong Kong China (WR:44) and Chinese Taipei (WR: 53) were involved in a dramatic game with the lower ranked side emerging 3-2 winners.
But after all the pool matches, it was the top four highest ranked sides who progressed to the medal matches. India (FIH Hero World Ranking:9) and Japan (WR:14) were two teams who showed just what they were capable of achieving with some fantastic performances at the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018, and both teams have carried the form and confidence forward to Jakarta for the Asian Games.
On the opening day of competition, both Japan and India recorded decisive victories over their rivals, Chinese Taipei (11-0) and Indonesia (8-0). Japan then beat Hong Kong China 6-0, before India showed their goal scoring muscle with a 21-0 victory over Kazakhstan.
Both teams then faced stiff tests against two of the pre-tournament favourites. Japan saw out a brilliant 4-2 victory over the higher ranked China (WR:11) team, while India beat Korea (WR:10) 4-1. Both India and Japan then finished their pool matches with wins over Thailand (WR:28) and Malaysia (WR:22) respectively.
The results left Japan top of Pool A with maximum points and India top of Pool B, also with no losses.
In the semi-finals, Japan faced the runners-up in Pool B, Korea, who had won all bar one of their pool games. Korea are renowned for their ability to soak up large amounts of pressure before unleashing speedy attacks, but on this occasion, the Cherry Blossoms held firm against some spirited Korean attacking play and scored two goals in the final quarter of the game. Akiko Ota scored the first goal from a penalty corner and she was joined on the scoresheet with just 15 seconds left on the clock by Minami Shimzu, who scored from open play.
If that match was a closely fought affair, then the game between China, who were runners-up in Pool A, and India was even more tense. China had demonstrated great ability in front of goal in their previous matches, clocking up 15 goals against Hong Kong and nine against Chinese Taipei, but there had also been some weaknesses exposed as Malaysia had held China to a 2-2 draw and they had lost to Japan, effectively ceding the pool leadership to the Cherry Blossoms.
While China had struggled, India had bloomed and their confidence was evident as the Eves peppered the China defence with shots – including a string of three penalty corners that were all well saved by the China defence.
In the end, India’s persistence was rewarded as Gurjit Kaur scored the penalty corner that took India to the final and a chance to secure the first qualification place at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
In the event classification matches, Indonesia will be delighted to have taken seventh place after a 2-0 victory over Chinese Taipei, while Malaysia finished fifth after beating Thailand 2-0.
On the final day of women’s hockey action on Friday 31 August, Hong Kong China face Kazakhstan in the battle for ninth place and then the next two matches will decide the medals.
Korea will take on China in the bronze medal match at 17:30 local time and at 20:00 Japan face India for the gold medal.