Indian girls sail into semis
India scripted history as they stunned higher-ranked Spain 4-2 to enter the semifinals of the Women’s Junior Hockey World Cup for the first time here on Thursday.
They may have started the game as underdogs, but the Indian girls rose to the occasion and dished out a spirited performance to tame their higher-rated opponents and seal a last-four berth for the first time in the history of the event.
India sounded the board twice in each half through Monika (10th minute), Navneet Kaur (34th), Vandana Katariya (41st) and Rani (48th) while Spain’s goals came in the first period from the sticks of Xantal Gine (7th) and captain Berta Bonastra (30th).
It was the Spanish girls who struck first through Gine, who converted a penalty corner in the seventh minute.
India equalised just three minutes later through a field effort from Monika.
Spain restored their lead just five minutes from the lemon break through Bonastra before Navneet restored parity for India with an outstanding reverse stick shot in the dying minutes of the opening half.
However, after the change of ends, India took the initiative and surged ahead in the 41st minute when Katariya converted a penalty corner.
Seven minutes later Rani extended India’s lead and made the scoreline 4-2.
With 22 minutes still remaining in the game, Spain had plenty of time to forge a comeback in the match and they did put pressure on the Indian defence with numerous raids. But the Indian backline stood firm to deny their opponents any inroads.
India will take on the winners of the last quarterfinal between Netherlands and South Africa in the semifinal on Friday.
India’s chief coach Neil Hawgood has attributed the women’s team’s success to the experience his wards have attained while playing at the senior level.
India fielded more or less the same team which came a cropper in the FIH World League Round 3 in Rotterdam in June and Hawgood said the experience of playing at the senior level worked wonders for the junior girls.
“The success has come from all the big losses as we have been beaten by top teams of the world in World League Round 3. Now, the senior level experience has helped the girls here at the Junior World Cup,” a jubilant Hawgood said.