Defending Champions India will take on a tough Japanese side in their opening match at the 5th Women’s Asian Champions Trophy here on Sunday. The team led by experienced defender Sunita Lakra and Vice Captain Savita eye a strong start against World No.12 Japan, who have in the past given India a hard fight, often challenging the them with a structured defence making scoring a Herculean task.
In the 2013 Asian Champions Trophy Final, Japan had beaten India in the Final to win the trophy. In the 2016 edition where India eventually won the title for the first time, Japan had held India to a 2-2 draw and had beaten Finalists China in the Pool Stage of the Tournament which was held in Singapore. India had lost 0-2 to Japan in last year’s Hockey World League Round Three in July but avenged that loss in the Asia Cup where they defeated Japan, who were the defending Champions and hosts of the Tournament. “We have always had tough competition against Japan. They are a quality team and breaking their defence early in the match will be crucial for us,” stated the 27-year-old Skipper, a native of Sundargarh district, Odisha.
India can take heart from their 6-0 win against Malaysia in the warm-up match on Friday. The team, according to Sunita is high on confidence after doing well against higher ranked teams at the recent XXI Commonwealth Games. “We want to make a good start to the tournament and the team is confident of it. We no longer go into tournaments as the underdogs. We have a winning mentality now and want to take it match-by-match here. We had a good warm-up match against Malaysia. It was for three quarters and the team played to structure. We hope to carry the same consistency into our first game on Sunday,” Sunita asserted.