Indian women’s hockey team goalkeeper Savita Punia played an integral part in India’s 1-0 win over Australia in their Tokyo Olympics 2021 quarter-final on Monday.
Savita Punia, the vice-captain, along with an agile defense line, kept the Australians at bay for 60 minutes to script a new tale in India’s hockey legacy.
Savita thwarted all of Australia’s nine attempts in the match, including two field goal attempts and seven penalty corner ones. The goalkeeper stood like a rock and gave it her all to make sure the scoreline remained in favor of India.
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It was a collective effort, with the forward line and the defense complementing each other perfectly. The Indian team dished out a complete performance and seemed to have plugged the majority of the gaps that were plaguing them at the start of the group stage.
But, what had inspired them? Savita Punia, who was still gasping for breath when the match was over, revealed that it was Shah Rukh Khan’s “70 minute” speech from the movie Chak De! India. Coach Sjoerd Marijne gave a speech along similar lines, which was enough to boost the team to create history.
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Savita Punia said that coach Marijne had told them to treat this as their last match and give it their all. Speaking to Sportskeeda, she said:
“Just do and die, you have just these sixty minutes, so put in all your effort. Treat it as your first and last match of the Olympics.”
Savita Punia says team rose to the occasion when it mattered the most
Drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur rose to the occasion and converted India’s lone penalty corner in the 22nd minute to surprise the Hockeyroos.
The Indian team boasted a strong backline, shutting Australia’s attack completely. Savita Punia says it was a simple strategy they followed and it worked for them. She added:
“We worked as a unit. Whenever we lost the ball, the focus was on retrieving it as soon as possible. Retackle, retackle and retackle, that was the strategy.”
Savita Punia said India were ready for the Australian challenge and familiarity made it a foe.
“We wanted Australia in the quarterfinals, since we have played them a lot. We knew how they played so we could play our game against them. They give us space, so today we used it to our advantage. Against South Africa, our performance wasn’t good even though we scored. So, today (Monday), it was just about focusing on defense. A strong backline would mean we can score a goal. As a senior player and goalkeeper, I just had to stay calm after that one goal.”
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Also Checkout: Tokyo Olympics Hockey Schedule