India women's hockey team skipper Rani Rampal on Tuesday said that it is yet to sink in that the team has qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The side defeated USA 5-1 in the first leg of the FIH Olympic qualifiers but lost 4-1 to them in the second leg.
However, they were able to record a 6-5 win on aggregate and qualified for the Olympics next year.
"I think we are still in a daze. It is yet to sink in that we have actually qualified. Maybe we would have celebrated had we won the second match too. Though a win is a win, we didn't expect things to pan out the way it did for us in the second match," Rani said.
She also said that the team was motivated by coach Sjoerd Marijne's words at the halfway mark in the second-leg match. In the game, India was trailing 0-4, but it managed to score a goal which was a game-changer.
"Sjoerd was naturally quite upset when we went inside the changing room at half-time. His emotions were evident but all he said to us was, 'It's not over yet. All you need to do is go back and play as if the score is 0-0.' I think those words instilled confidence in us again. During the World Cup last year, we were 0-1 behind the USA but we scored only in the second half to draw that match," Rani said.
"We showed a resurgence in the third quarter and all of us played with that never-say-die attitude but it was not enough. A goal was still eluding us with the USA giving us no room in the striking circle. When I saw the screen with time ticking away fast, just 30 seconds remaining for the third quarter to end, I did wonder if we could still make it," she added.
Rani said that the team has crossed just the first hurdle. Now it will not spare any effort to get a medal for the country.
"We have crossed the first hurdle which was to qualify. Now we will regroup, review, analyse and there is ample time for us to prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and our goal is to win a medal," Rani said.
The Indian team will now get a two-week break before they return for National Coaching Camp in SAI, Bengaluru.
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