In a devastating setback, the Indian women’s hockey team lost to Japan 0-1 in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers held in Ranchi on Friday, making it impossible for them to advance to the 2017 Paris Games.

After a historic fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, the wheels seemed to have come off for the Indian women’s team following the utterly disappointing show in one of its hubs in recent years. However, Kana Urata’s sixth-minute penalty corner strike proved to be the winner for Japan.

The top three teams in this competition earned a spot in the Olympics in Paris. Japan secured their spot by coming in third place.

Indian women's hockey team fails to qualify for the Paris Olympics

The other two teams to guarantee their spots are Germany and the United States, who will compete in the championship match later in the evening.

Japan was the first to attack, applying pressure to the Indian defenders and creating the first scoring opportunity. However, in the second minute, an alert Indian skipper named Savita raced out in front of goal to kick away the loose ball.

Despite several excellent circle penetrations, the Indians were unable to threaten the Japanese goal and had to play catch-up. Minutes later, Japan maintained their pressure and earned their first penalty corner, but the Indians played strong defence.

After two minutes, India gave up another simple penalty corner, and this time, Urata scored with a grounded flick that went past Savita’s legs and into the net.

The Japanese placed a lot of pressure on the Indian defence with numerous dangerous crosses that could have split the defence, but the hosts somehow held on.

India’s first meaningful opportunity came in the twelfth minute. With a lovely cross from her right wing, Monika opened the scoring, but Lalremsiami’s deflection flew over the crossbar.

The Indians committed the mistake of not using both flanks, as they have done throughout this competition. The team captained by Savita played a typical kind of hockey, attempting to base the most of their attacks on the right flank.

Because the Indians deviated from their forte of playing offensive hockey, they let Japan dominate the game. Just after the resumption, Japan picked up where they left off from the first quarter and won their third set piece. But in the second quarter, the Indians gained some momentum and quickly secured two penalty corners.

Lalremsiami first produced the opportunity with her deft 3D talents, but Japan goalie Eika Nakamura stopped Deepika’s shot. A few seconds later, India managed to score another set piece, but Deepika was unable to breach the Japanese defence once more.

The Indian players had no intention of winning 50/50 balls. They also appeared to have ran out of ideas, as opposed to their strong suit, which is making accurate, short throws, and instead sought to strike the ball from the thirty-yard line.

After the change of ends, behind 0-1 at the half, the Indians came out swinging and produced several nice plays, but they failed to score.

India won another penalty corner six minutes into the third quarter, but Deepika was unable to get past Nakamura in front of Japan’s goal.

Japan scored a set piece a few minutes later, but the Indians held strong to be in the hunt.

India had numerous opportunities to score penalty corners and win back-to-back set pieces in the 43rd minute, but Udita Duhan’s slap shot was unable to breach the Japanese defence.

The Indians repeatedly attacked Japan in the third quarter, putting them under extreme pressure. The home team’s strategies were successful in securing another penalty corner just before the end, but once more, they were defeated by poor execution.

After the change of ends, the Indians had total dominance, but this did not translate into goals. In the whole 60 minutes, India was awarded up to nine penalty corners, but their recurring conversion issue persisted.

India won three penalty corners in the final 11 minutes of play, but Deepika and Udita’s dismal performance persisted.

The finest opportunity for India to tie the score a minute and a half before full time came from an unmarked Salima Tete, but she missed the goal with just the goalkeeper to beat.