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Indian women win hockey Champions Challenge II


Kazan (Russia) : Rani Rampal scored four goals as Indian women crushed Belgium 6-3 to win the inaugural Champions Challenge II hockey tournament here Saturday.

Rani, who emerged as the tournament’s top scorer with eight goals, struck in the 17th, 38th, 44th and 54th minutes. Besides, Saba Anjum (20th min) and Thokchom Chanchan (49th min) scored a goal each. Skipper Valerie Vermeersch (40th, 52nd) and Boon Jill (55th) scored for Belgium.

India thus qualified for next year’s Champions Challenge proper to be held in October in South Africa. India last played in Champions Challenge, a qualification tournament for the elite Champions Trophy, in 2001 in Johannesburg and won a bronze medal.

The Indian women put up a dominating display here wining all their five matches.

This victory will also help erase some bad memories of last year’s Beijing Olympic qualifiers here when the team finished fourth among six teams. The title could not have been more satisfying for India which lost to Belgium in the Olympic qualifiers, but in this tournament they beat them twice. They had earlier defeated Belgium 5-3 in the Pool A opener.

In the final, India never gave any chance to Belgium and attacked right from the beginning.

During the first 15 minutes, both team had their chances, but India finally opened the scoring when Rani struck the first of her four goals in the final. India extended the lead three minutes later through a field goal by Anjum.

After leading 2-0 at half time, India kept up the pressure on Belgium in the second half.

Rani scored three minutes into the second half through a penalty corner before Belgium pulled one back through skipper Vermeersch’s short corner strike.

India, however, kept looking for goals and Rani soon gave them a comfortable 4-1 cushion — and the writing was very much on the wall for Belgium.

Chanchan sounded the board for India before Rani made it 6-2 after Vermeersch converted one more penalty corner. Boon Jill scored the last goal of the match for Belgium.

Indian captain Surinder Kaur was declared the best player of the tournament.

Ireland won the bronze medal after defeating Ukraine 2-1 in the bronze medal match. Belarus claimed the fifth position after a 2-1 win over Canada. Malaysia finished seventh and host Russia settled for the eighth position.