Their dream to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics achieved, Indian women's hockey team chief coach Sjoerd Marijne said preparations for a podium finish in next year's Summer Games will realistically start from Sunday. The Indian team sealed its place in next year's Games after beating USA 6-5 on aggregate despite losing the second match 1-4 against the visitors in the double-leg FIH Olympic Qualifiers on Saturday. The hosts had earlier defeated the Americans 5-1 in the first tie on Friday. "We have a dream and the dream is to go to the Olympics, and the most beautiful colour in the Olympics is gold. Our preparation for the Olympics starts tomorrow morning," the Dutchman said.
Marijne, however, was not happy with the performance of his wards in the second game and said to excel on the big stage, they will have to maintain consistency for the entire 60 minutes.
"The first half, I was like what is going on here, and we really reacted. I was watching with the conditioning coach, like what is going on. There were so many things that were going wrong," he said.
"At half-time I told the girls, it's 0-0. It's your moment, go with your heads up.There's pressure on the girls. The only thing you can do on the pitch is run. Because if you are running, you are not thinking about winning or losing. I had to take pressure off the girls. We had to put USA under pressure and make them commit mistakes.
"We all can see, we played well in one half. But now we have to do it for the entire match. But I am proud of the fighting spirit of the girls," he added.
Marije was full of praise for the the way USA fought till in the end.
India captain Rani Rampal, who scored the vital goal in the 48th minute, said she was confident of a positive result despite trailing 0-4 in the first half.
"A lot of players, especially for youngsters it was the first opportunity. Throughout the game, I never thought it would end our careers, because we have worked a lot for these matches. I knew we can do anything till the last minute. I know we should have done it from the first quarter," she said.
"We converted our chances yesterday, they converted today. Trailing 0-4, you need to work harder. I think the girls put in a lot of energy till the last moment."
USA coach Janneke Schopman was "devastated" with the end result, especially after their valiant fightback.
"We are devastated. The girls are heartbroken. They gave their heart and soul on the pitch today but we were unlucky," she said.
She also criticised the umpiring and said the yellow card in the 47th minute to Alyssa Manley cost them dear.
"It was not a yellow card, for that matter not a green card. That decision cost us and India scored that goal," Schopman said.