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Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup: India breeze past Korea into semis


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Mumtaz stars again in the 3-0 win; Netherlands are up next



India beat South Korea 3-0 in Potchefstroom(Hockey India)


Two days before flying out to South Africa for the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2021, Salima Tete and the team were told that the December 5-16 event had been postponed indefinitely due to the Omicron variant of Covid-19. “Our bags were packed. To be told at the last minute that we are not travelling was very disappointing. We had been waiting for a long time to play,” said India vice-captain Ishika Chaudhary.

The team returned to the drawing board, resumed training, played practice games against India seniors and stayed ready. A little over a month later they found out that the event had been rescheduled to April. The announcement lifted the team, motivating them to put in extra hours on the field.

All that preparation is showing as India qualified for the semi-finals—for the first time in nine years—convincingly beating two-time champions South Korea 3-0 in Potchefstroom on Friday. Mumtaz Khan (11th), Lalrindiki (15th) and Sangita Kumari (41st) sounded the boards. This was India’s fourth successive win after beating Wales, Germany and Malaysia in the group stage.

On Sunday, India will play three-time champions Netherlands, the most successful team in the history of the tournament, for a place in the final. The only time India reached the podium was in 2013 when the Sushila Chanu-led outfit won bronze.

When the tournament got deferred, India Dutch coach Erik Wonink coordinated with women’s senior team coach and compatriot Janneke Schopman for practice matches at the national camps in Bengaluru and Bhubaneswar. Players like goalkeeper Bichu Devi Kharibam, defenders Chaudhary and Akshata Abaso Dhekale and forwards Deepika and Sangita were also handed senior team debuts in the Pro League, getting the exposure and experience that is proving to be more than handy in South Africa.

“I got a chance to perform at the senior level. Getting opportunities to play in the Pro League provided us that advantage. Many from our (junior) team debuted. The confidence we gained from Pro League matches is really helping us now,” said Chaudhary.

The presence of three Olympians—Tete, Lalremsiami and Sharmila Devi— who were part of the team that finished fourth in Tokyo has also helped. “We tried and tested a lot of combinations in the practice matches against the seniors. A lot of players didn’t know how to play in structure. They do now,” said Tete.

Game of pace

In the quarter-final, India were up against a team known to frustrate opposition by slowing down the pace of the contest. They also play a more physical game and look to hit on the break. India’s speed though proved too much. They regularly broke through the Korean midfield and defence, making 28 circle penetrations (to South Korea’s 10). India had 15 shots in comparison to only four from South Korea.

The daughter of a vegetable seller, Mumtaz starred yet again, giving India the breakthrough goal when Tete slapped the ball from the top of the circle during a penalty corner; the girl from Lucknow giving the final deflection in a well-worked variation. Mumtaz, who was named Player of the Match, has scored in all four games including a hat-trick against Malaysia. She is the third highest goal-scorer in the tournament with six goals.

South Korea were creating half-chances but being thwarted by India’s defence which would then launch a counter-attack. It was from one such counter-attack that Lalrindiki doubled India’s lead with an easy flick.

Barely tested in the second and third quarters, India made it 3-0 when Beauty Dung Dung’s mishit flummoxed Korean goalkeeper Kim Eun-ji and Sangita took advantage of the open goal to put the ball in the net.

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