The India women’s hockey team qualified for the Olympic Games quarter-finals after 41 years as it beat South Africa 4-3 here on Saturday. Later in the day, defending champion Great Britain blanked Ireland 2-0 to ensure India’s passage into the knockout stage.
Vandana (4th, 17th and 49th minute) achieved a rare feat by becoming the first Indian woman hockey player to score a hat-trick at the Olympics. Young Neha Goyal (32nd) was the other goal getter.
South Africa’s goals came from the sticks of Tarryn Glasby (15th), skipper Erin Hunter (30th) and Marizen Marais (39th). “The match was really tough. South Africa gave us a really good fight. SA converted its chances in the circle. Defensively, we can be a lot better,” skipper Rani Rampal said.
India’s chief coach Sjoerd Marijne heaved a sigh of relief but was unhappy with the number of goals his side conceded. “We gave too many goals away, and I think that we can score more goals. We did what we had to do. We had to win the match,” he said. Needing a win to stay alive in the competition, the Indians meant business and pressed hard on the South African defence from the start.