Buenos Aires [Argentina], February 2 (ANI): The Indian women's hockey team will return to New Delhi on February 3 after playing their first competitive tour since February 2020. The exposure tour of Argentina, as part of their preparations for the Olympic Games, saw the Indian core group register 2-2, 1-1 against Argentina's junior team.
However, the Indian side also registered 1-2 and 2-3 losses to Argentina's 'B' team before a 2-3, 0-2 loss to the world number two side. In the last scheduled match on Sunday, the Indian team led by Rani held Argentina to a 1-1 draw.
"In all three matches against the senior Women, it was very closely contested, and the matches could have gone either way. Even in the match where we lost 0-2, they (Argentina) were very effective, but our quality of play was very high in that game. Overall, this tour has helped us gain that confidence of playing against a top side like Argentina. We had the chance to experience what it takes to beat a team like Argentina and the areas we need to focus on to succeed against a quality side. This is a positive step in our preparations for the Olympic Games," said women's hockey coach Sjoerd Marijne.
One of the key aspects of the tour was to provide ample exposure to some of the young players in the core group who are yet to gain experience at the international level.
"This tour was also about giving players who don't have much international experience the chance to show their level. This is a long-term process, and it is important for the future of the team," Marijne said.
Speaking about the players' experience against Argentina, skipper Rani Rampal said: "In 2017 when we played against Argentina at the World League semifinal, we stood no chance of coming close to them. We couldn't go into their circle; we couldn't create opportunities or penalty corners. I remember, before going into matches against top teams like Argentina, we would tell each other that we should just try and keep the score low but now we go into these matches wanting to win. There's a big difference now and with a little more change to our game, we can definitely beat top teams. The whole experience of the tour was fantastic, and we know the level we are at despite a year-long break in competitions due to Covid-19."
After returning to India, the core group will have a two-week break before regrouping at the Sports Authority of India (SAI), Bengaluru campus for the national coaching camp.
Chief coach Marijne feels that the Argentina tour will be an ideal benchmark to improve in the days leading up to the Olympic Games.
"We are very grateful to Hockey India and SAI for organizing this tour under such circumstances. Once we return to Bengaluru, we will evaluate these matches again and use this as a benchmark to make further progress in our performance. This tour has surely helped a lot," Marijne said. (ANI)