It was a case of being close to doorstep of victory before India conceded a late goal that stretched the match into a shootout, where they came a cropper and missed out on a bronze medal, finishing fourth. The bronze medal miss must be deeply disappointing for the Indian junior eves but one cannot take away the fact that these girls have done all of us proud – giving us the belief that the junior women talent supplyline is very much in health mode. India was going for glory and with less than minutes left for the final hooter, Cladia Swan played a spoiler nicking home past Bichu Devi Kharibam, who would have realised how hockey can be a great leveller. The Indian goalkeeper failed to save three times even as they failed to score thrice to hand the shootout to the red brigade.
Earlier, India – aware of the importance of the big occasion, seized the early momentum forcing two penalty corners. England goalkeeper Mila Welch punctured Indian hopes of taking an early lead, standing in the way of Deepika on both occasions. The match witnessed end-to-end action with India controlling possession and England also posing threat on the counter-attacks. India could have gone ahead but Lalrindiki missed a sitter – they could not translate their opening quarter promise into goals and was left to rue their missed chances when England captain Millie Giglio put her side ahead in the second quarter, taking a shot that caught Indian goalkeeper wrong-footed with awkward bounce and bobbled in – a soft goal conceded by someone who has had a magnificent Junior World Cup.
The Blueskirts did not take too long to come back into the contest. Sharmila Devi essayed a baseline run from the left and drilled in a precise cross that was banged home by Mumtaz Khan – her 7th goal of the tournament. India built more pressure on the English goal and win a short corner in the final minute of the first half. However, Salima Tete took the indirect route and relayed it to Sangita Kumar, who slammed it wide.
Both teams exhibited high-intensity stuff in the third quarter but goals eluded them. England failed to make the most their first penalty corner early in the final quarter, but Bichu Devi Kharibam pulled off splendid back-to-back saves. India went ahead for the first time in the match when Mumtaz Khan rolled it into the England goal in the 47th minute with a backhander after being set up by Lalrindiki.
Just when it appeared that India only needed to run down the clock, there was heartbreak in store in the form of Claudia Swain. Going forward, India can look to build on the positives of the 9th Junior Women’s World Cup.