Olympic Qualifier | India proves too good for Italy, seals semifinal spot

Going all out: The Indians were relentless in their attacks on the Italian citadel.
| Photo Credit: ANI

India overwhelmed Italy for a best-ever 5-1 win in its final Pool B match at the Olympic Qualifiers on Tuesday to finish second in its group, qualifying for the semifinals, and keeping its hopes of an Olympic ticket alive. Up next will be Germany for a spot in the final.

Needing only a draw after USA beat New Zealand 1-0 to top with nine points, India started much the same way it did against New Zealand, Salima Tete earning a penalty corner 38 seconds into the game and Udita making no mistake. But Italy tightened its defence to defuse every Indian attack thereafter, stretching the flanks to move ahead.

The last time the two teams faced off with an Olympic ticket on the line was in 2012, also played in India, when the host edged past Italy 1-0. And the last time they played at the 2018 World Cup, India won 3-0.

Despite almost equal possession and penetration, the Indians appeared more dominant largely due to their control on the game inside the two circles but were unable to finish their chances.

Sangita, Salima, Deepika and Lalremsiami all kept pushing in and taking shots but were unable to break the defence. Nikki, Udita and Nisha ensured there was no damage at the back end.

The second half was more of the same before Lalremsiami, running a solo through the middle, was pushed by Maria Aleman in the 41st minute for a penalty stroke and Deepika doubled the lead.

Seconds from the end of third quarter Salima finally got one of her own, squeezing the ball through the narrowest of gaps into the net from the top of circle. Navneet dribbled past three defenders to score and Udita rounded up the tally before Italy pulled one back seconds before time.

Earlier, a shaky New Zealand failed to convert the few chances it got, including four PCs, against a fighting USA to fail to make the cut for the Olympics for the first time since 2000.

USA had to wait till the 17th minute for Elizabeth Yeager to find a deflection and go ahead, a lead it hung on to till the end.

Pool A played out on more predictable lines with Germany topping the group with a 10-0 win against Czech Republic in its final league match while Japan finished second on goal difference with a 2-0 victory against Chile to set up a semifinal clash with USA.

The results: Pool A: Germany 10 (Sonja Zimmerman 3, Jette Fleschutz 2, Charlotte Stapenhorst 2, Pauline Heinz, Nike Lorenz, Selin Oruz) bt Czech Republic 0; Japan 2 (Kana Urata, Miyu Hasegawa) bt Chile 0.

Pool B: USA 1 (Elizabeth Yeager) bt New Zealand 0; India 5 (Udita 2, Navneet Kaur, Salima Tete, Deepika) bt Italy 1 (Camila Machin).

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