4 from Odisha in women’s Hockey World Cup squad

Bhubaneswar: Four hockey players from Odisha have been selected to represent the country at the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup to be played in London next month.

The four players-Sunita Lakra, Deep Grace Ekka, Namita Toppo and Lilima Minz from Odisha will be a part of the 18-member squad which will be led by forward Rani Rampal with Savita as her deputy.

All the four were also a part of the team which finished runners-up in the recent Asian Champions Trophy. Ace defender Sunita Lakra led the Indian team to the final but eventually lost the title after a 1-0 defeat to South Korea.

India’s defence will consist of Sunita Lakra, Deep Grace Ekka, Deepika, drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur and youngster Reena Khokhar who makes a comeback into the team. In the midfield, Namita Toppo, Lilima Minz, Monika, Neha Goyal, Navjot Kaur and Nikki Pradhan will hold fort.

India’s Captain Rani returned to the team during their Spain Tour and will again be leading her team’s forward-line. The ace-striker will be linking up with the experienced Vandana Katariya while Navneet Kaur, Lalremsiami and Udita will also provide them support in attack.

India has been placed with World No. 2 and host nation England in a tricky Pool B alongside World No. 7 USA and minnows Ireland in the 16-team mega event.

Presently, number 10 in the world rankings, India will open its world cup campaign against the Three Lions on July 21 followed by match against Ireland on July 26 and encounter against USA on July 29.

“It was not an easy decision to select the 18-member team as all the core probables have worked really hard in the National Camp. However, we feel that this 18-member team will be the best mixture to be successful at the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018,” team’s Chief Coach, Sjoerd Marijne said.

“In order to reach our first goal of qualifying for the quarter finals, we can only think about the first match against the hosts and the team is excited and confident of starting well against them in front of a packed stadium,” he added.

The women-in-blue had qualified for the World Cup following a nerve-wracking 5-4 win against China to clinch the Asia Cup title in November last year.

India had failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup event and finished ninth in the preceding edition.