Indian eves beat China to win Asia Cup title

AGENCIES KAKAMIGAHARA (JAPAN), 5th Nov: The Indian women's hockey team beat China 5-4 in a penalty shootout to win the Asia Cup in Japan on Sunday. This is India's first Asia Cup in 13 years and they now qualify for the World Cup in 2018 as Asian champions.

The score was 1-1 at full-time as China found a late equaliser through Tiantian Luo, who converted a penalty corner in the 47th minute, after India scored through Navjot Kaur in the 25th minute.

In the shootout, Rani Rampal was the hero as she held her nerve to score the sudden death decider and then Savita Punia saved one to give India the title.

"We are all extremely happy that we won the Asia Cup and have earned the qualification for next year's World Cup on merit," Rampal said after the win. "We worked a lot on creating PCs and Gurjit worked hard on converting PCs during our camps. We were also well-prepared for a shootout situation as we were anticipating the knockouts to end in shootout. All the preparation helped us today.

"Finally now that we have won, there is going to be a lot of dancing and celebrations back in the hotel," she said.

The triumph of the women's team follows the Asia Cup victory of the men's side last month. India had to wait long for their second Women's Asia Cup title with the last one coming in 2004, when they had beaten Japan in New Delhi for the trophy.

The final day of play at the Women's Asia Cup 2017 also saw Korea beat Japan in a close 1-0 match to take bronze, while Malaysia finished fifth after defeating Thailand.

This will be India's seventh appearance at the Women's Hockey World Cup. They took fourth place in the World Cup held in Mandelieu, France in 1974, losing to West Germany in the bronze medal match. Since then they have finished seventh, ninth, 11th twice and 12th. Their performance at the Women's Asia Cup will give new Head Coach Harendra Singh high hopes of a strong performance in London next year.

The Hockey Women's World Cup 2018 will be held at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, England from July 21 to August 5.

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