The Indian team missed out on a bronze medal by a narrow margin.
India have just finished their run in the FIH Women’s Junior Hockey World Cup in Potchefstroom, South Africa. The Indian team claimed the fourth position in the tournament. They missed out on a bronze medal after conceding defeat against England in the last match. Though the Indians were tied at 2-2 in regulation time, it was the penalties where the English side pulled through.
Unfortunately for India, Sharmila Devi, Sangita Kumari and Salima Tete missed out on their penalties. Despite the defeat, India did have a great run in the Women’s Junior Hockey World Cup. The Indians won all their group games against Wales, Germany and Malaysia and then won the quarter-finals against South Korea. However, that unbeaten run came to an end in the semi-finals against the Netherlands. The Dutch beat India 3-0 in that fixture to progress to the final.
Overall it was quite a decent effort from the Indian team if everything is taken into perspective. There were a lot of positives to look back on and also some negatives that have to be addressed for the betterment of the team in the future. Here are the takeaways from their exploit in South Africa.
The Indians were super effective in front of goals. They scored a total of 16 goals in the tournament so far. Apart from their semi-final game against the Dutch team, India scored in every other game. They racked up wins against Wales (5-1), Germany (2-1) and Malaysia (4-0) in the group games.
Moreover, they also scored an array of goals in their victory over South Korea in the quarter finals (3-0). The last two goals of their campaign came against England in a losing effort in the bronze medal game.
The emergence of Mumtaz Khan
Mumtaz Khan was undeniably India’s standout player in the Women’s Junior Hockey World Cup. The 19-year-old is India’s highest goalscorer in the contest with eight goals. Moreover, she is also the third-highest goalscorer in the tournament. The girl from Lucknow is an asset for India in the forward line and can be a rightful successor to the likes of Vandana Katariya and Rani Rampal.
She chimed in with goals in almost every game for the Indians. She scored a goal against Wales and another against Germany which helped India beat the Germans 2-1. Khan was at her destructive best against Malaysia and notched up a hattrick in their 4-0 victory over them. The Under-18 Youth Olympics silver medalist was adjudged the player of the match against South Korea in their quarter-final clash.
Mumtaz Khan also scored a brace against England in their bronze medal game.
The Indian team showed good defensive skills in the tournament. Under vice-captain Ishika Chaudhary and goalkeeper Khushboo, the Indians kept their damages to a bare minimum. They just conceded two goals in the group stages.
Despite suffering some defensive lapses in games against the Netherlands and England, the backward line was pretty almost on point. It was also one of the main reasons why most teams including this year’s finalists Germany had a tough time against India.
Succumbing in big matches
India has a habit of struggling in matches with big stakes. Though the Indian team starts off well, it’s those crucial final games where India finds itself short of its usual standards. When India started the tournament they looked unbeatable but the semi-finals in a way lifted that veil of invincibility.
Arguments can be made that India lost to the best side in the tournament in the form of the Netherlands. Even then a victory against England was very least expected under the current scenario and improvements the ladies have made over the years.
Big names falling short of their benchmark
The Indian team had some heavyweights in their junior squad this year. The list included players like captain Salima Tete, Lalremsiami and Sharmila Devi who are Olympic bronze medalists. However their performances fell short to their standards.
Though the performances were decent, it wasn’t spectacular like their performances at the Olympics or the Pro Leagues. The tiebreakers against England was again one such example. Sharmila, Sangita Kumari and captain Salima all missed their penalties even though they are not short of experience.
If these minor issues are addressed the Indian team would give a run for their money to all the top teams in the upcoming tournaments.