Tokyo: Enduring a forgettable campaign, bottom-placed Indian women's hockey can't afford squandering any more chances if it fancies upsetting defending champions Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympics, here on Wednesday.
After a 1-5 drubbing against world number one the Netherlands, the Indians players lifted their game by leaps and bounds to give third-ranked Germany a run for their money before losing 0-2 in their next Pool A match.
But two consecutive defeats have definitely pegged the side back.
India created a lot of scoring opportunities against Germany but finishing was lacking from the forward line. On one occasion, Vandana Katariya was denied by the goal post too.
But not converting the penalty stroke was a huge miss.
However, the Rani Rampal-led side can take a lot of heart from its performance against the Germans given that it kept the intensity and fight intact till the final hooter.
With two defeats from as many games, the Indian women are currently lying at the bottom of the six-team Pool A, which is being headed by Netherlands, followed by Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and South Africa.
While Ireland has recorded a win out of their two games, both South Africa and India are winless but the Africans are placed ahead on goal difference.
But these are still early days with three matches each remaining for all the teams. Top four sides from each pool of six will qualify for the quarterfinals.
India's chief coach Sjoerd Marijne acknowledges the improvement but said it needs to continue if his side wants to secure a quarterfinal berth.
"We played better yesterday (against Germany) than our previous match. The quality of the play has to improve with each match, and that's what we are focussing on," he noted.
"It was unfortunate that we missed our penalty stroke, but I'm happy we created many opportunities to score, which was a positive sign. We played with a lot of energy and were able to put pressure on Germany."
Ranked 11th in the world, India stand a chance to make the quarterfinals but for that to happen they will have to outplay seventh-ranked Ireland and South Africa, who are placed 16th.
Even if they play to their potential and make use of the chances, the Indians can very well beat world number five Great Britain, who so far didn't look like the title holders. They have managed a win and a loss in their two games.
Great Britain lost 1-2 against Germany before registering a 4-1 win over South Africa in their second match.
India captain Rani Rampal too stressed on the need to keep on improving in the competition.
"We created a lot of chances against a tough opponent like Germany and our defensive organisation was better than before. We know that we are on the right track and our time will come. We must show our strength and character as a team. This is a long competition," she said.
"...but we want to focus on our good takeaways from our previous match and identify the areas where we still need to improve."