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Asian Games 2018
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Indian girls miss out crucial Gold (9/1/2018)
--s2h Team
Vandana Katariya was a forlorn figure in the entire medals award ceremony that lasted almost an hour after the final match between Japan and India. She had her own reason. Just a mere sixteen seconds before the hooter, Rani Rampal created an opportunity for India to score the elusive equalizer that can take the Asian Games final to shoot out. Rani cleverly found a gap among almost half a dozen defenders inside the circle. Yet the veteran perfectly timed the ball in her through ball that crossed a maze of legs and rolled to the right of goalie who was already charging and in that process fell 5,6 yards away from cage. All Vandana, who was just crouch-standing facing the goalie, should do was to gently deflect the ball into the empty goal. But she harried, carried away at the heat of moment. Her push was just fraction of degree wrong-angled. The ball agonizingly rolled a couple of inches to the left post. It was misfortune that the ball moved the way it did. For Vandana, who scored one of the beautiful solo goals of the Jakarta Asian hockey meet --- it was against Korea -- its heart-breaking moment, and it was.

This is in a nutshell is the story of the Indian girls.

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Jakarata was their moment. Never were they the highest ranked in the Asian hierarchy as they were now. Asian women's hockey, barring the inaugural one was a three-horse way between Korea, Japan and India. Later China joined. Most of the times, Korea and China were far above ranked India that medal prospects were not there. Here, the situation was different. India was top ranked, expected to clinch Gold and with that ticket to Tokyo.

Rani Rampal's team played some wonderful hockey here. As China's German coach Moulders opined often India was qualitatively the best team here. Yet, on Saturday, the team had to settle with silver.

It had dominated the play nearly 60 percent of the game. The difference between two teams were counters of Japan. They were a shade quicker on the ball than the Indians, which used to be other way till now.

As later Navjot Kaur would stress that India's strength was penalty corner defence, which failed today. Japan got two penalty corners, very less considering its the event final. They could score off from both. India in fact got the first of its two penalty corners, but failed. This made all the difference.

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