Salima Tete made a great move when the ball was still flying in the air. She got the ball inside the ‘D’ on the right just before the end of the third quarter. With only seconds left, she looked at where the goalkeeper was and, from a sharp angle, hit the ball with a lot of power. The ball went into the far corner, and Salima ran towards Udita Duhan. The two players who have been turning around India’s struggling performance hugged each other in the middle of the field. Soon, other teammates joined them.

Salima’s goal came at a time when Italy was still trying to fight back. Even though Italy was losing by two goals, they kept attacking, testing the Indian defense, and winning penalty corners. But Salima’s goal, India’s third of the match, ended any hopes of Italy making a comeback.

In the final quarter, India scored two more goals, winning the match 5-1 and securing a spot in the semifinals of the Olympic Qualifiers. This means they are in a good position to qualify for the Paris Games.

However, before this victory, the USA team helped India. The USA, who defeated India in the first match, continued their winning streak by beating New Zealand 1-0. This meant the USA topped their group, making India’s task simpler: they just needed to avoid losing to Italy to stay in the competition for the Olympic berth.

And they succeeded. India played exceptionally well against Italy, winning 5-1 and earning a spot in the semifinals. The crowd at Jaipal Singh Stadium in Ranchi celebrated the victory, happy that the team recovered from a shaky start.

But it’s only halfway done. India, ranked 6th, will face a tough challenge in the semifinals against Germany. Winning this match will secure India’s third consecutive Olympic berth, something they hadn’t achieved in over three decades. Losing, however, would mean a tense playoff battle.

That’s a concern for another day. On Tuesday, India’s coach Janneke Schopman smiled widely for the first time in the tournament. She couldn’t bear to watch the previous game between the USA and New Zealand, which partially determined India’s fate. The USA managed to win, and it meant India only needed a draw against Italy to advance to the semifinals.

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India didn’t play for a draw, though. Just like in the previous match against New Zealand, they quickly went from 0 to 100. Three players, who were key in the last game, once again combined to trouble the Italians. Sangita Kumari took the first shot, Salima won a penalty corner, and Udita scored from it, giving India an early lead.

Italy, despite their lower ranking, had a strong defense, making it hard for India to score. At halftime, with the score still 1-0, there were nervous moments, especially considering Italy’s past victories over India.

But in the third quarter, Lalremsiami’s speed earned India a penalty stroke, and Deepika converted it to give India a two-goal lead. Salima’s goal later in the match ensured India’s victory and kept the home team in the tournament.