Not many would have expected India to reach the semifinals, let alone attain a podium finish at the 2013 Junior Women’s World Cup at Monchengladbach, Germany. The absence of high expectations was largely because the performance of Indian junior girls in the Junior Women’s World Cup hasn’t been anything to write home about. India had finished 9th, 11th, and 9th in the 2001, 2005, and 2009 editions held at Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Boston. Even the senior hockey eves was struggling to make an impact on the world stage.
Pitted in Pool B, Indian junior hockey eves were handed a 1-6 thrashing by Australia in their tournament opener – but they regrouped well from that heavy defeat and posted a 2-0 win over New Zealand and wrapped up their league engagements with a 10-1 pounding of Russia to secure their passage to the quarterfinals. India pipped Spain 4-2 in the quarterfinals before going down to eventual champions Netherlands 0-3 in the semifinals.
India could have beaten England in the bronze medal play-off in regulation time when Rani Rampal scored an early goal, but Anna Toman’s late equaliser stretched the contest into a shootout where India had the last laugh, winning it 3-2 to trigger celebrations all around. “We had a strong team and there was a lot of self-belief in the side. We were a bit demoralised by the 1-6 defeat to Australia, but we as a team motivated and supported each other and that helped,” recalls former Indian forward Poonam Rani, who made a meaningful contribution in the India winning a bronze at the 2013 Junior Women’s World Cup at Monchengladbach.
Poonam, who scored a brace in India’s 10-1 win over Russia in the league phase, says India making a podium finish surprised people all around. “Our bronze win came as a surprise for many who thought how we could fightback after the 1-6 loss to Australia. We raised our game several notches in the knockout phase. We were trailing twice in the quarterfinal against Spain but we clawed our way to win 4-2,” quips Poonam, who represented India in 204 internationals.
Poonam who is employed with Income Tax, but now posted at SAI on deputation at Hisar, traces the memories of the bronze medal play-off game against England. “We took an early lead and led by that solitary lead for most part of the match. Our defence was very disciplined and we could have won it in normal time but England restored parity with five minutes remaining for the final hooter. We did well in the shootout to nose out England,” says Poonam who had played in the 2010 World Cup, 2010 and 2014 Asian Games.