It needed the Indian women’s hockey team captain Savita Punia to lift their lackluster World Cup campaign with a leading-from-the-front performance in the shootout as India outduelled Canada 3-2 in sudden death to set up a meet-up with Japan in their concluding classification tie for 9-12th positions on Wednesday. Savita, who was outstanding in regulation time, brought off six saves in the shootout to hand her a near-perfect gift on her 21st birthday and also ensure India did not have to face the humiliation of playing for 13th-16th positions. The Janneke Schopman-coached 9th ranked Indian outfit was left to do all the chasing after 14th ranked Canada took the lead via a penalty corner conversion by Madeline Secco in the opening quarter. Canada coached by Robert Short, did not look like the side that was thrashed 1-7 and 1-4 by Argentina and Spain in the Pool phase – they really rose to the occasion and surprised India with their fighting spirit.
Trailing by a goal, Indian eves did everything in the remaining three quarters but score. The forwardline created numerous openings inside the Canadian ‘D’ but goalkeeper Ryan Harris along with their resilient deep defence frustrated India to no end. One could see the tensed Indian dugout as Canada held on to their solitary goal lead – the Blueskirts was again let down by their short corner conversion – they muffed up as many as seven shorties.
Just when it appeared that Canada had done enough to bravely hold on to their slender lead despite the mountain of raids by India, Salima Tete provided the lifeline for India, lunging to her right to slot home off a penalty corner routine – Gurjit Kaur, probably frustrated at her direct attempts being foiled by Ryan Harris, took an indirect variation and relayed the ball to PC injector Navneet Kaur, who played it to Salima Tete who did the needful.