Not many would have harboured hope that the Indian eves would make the semifinals of the 7th Junior Women’s World Cup being played in Monchengladbach, Germany given the fact that they were crushed 1-6 by Australia in their tournament opener – their 9th place finish at the last World Cup in 2009 at Boston must have left many sceptical as to whether they would stay competitive, let alone advance to the knock-out phase.
Now the Indian hockey eves have probably surpassed all expectations, not just first making it to the quarterfinals, but also making their maiden semifinal appearance, overcoming early jitters to humble Group D toppers Spain 4-2 on Thursday.
Mind you, Spain are no pushovers by any stretch of imagination – they held hosts Germany to a 2-2 draw besides drubbing England 5-0 and Belgium 3-0. So, it took a massive effort from India to put it across the Spanish Armada.
However, the Indian aspirations were a dealt a big blow early on when the Spanish eves shot into the lead in the 7th minute. Xantal Gine converted a penalty corner to push India on the backfoot. Undaunted by the early strike, the Indians regrouped quickly and restored parity three minutes later through Monika.
Both teams upped their ante in their bid to go ahead, but it was Spain who regained the lead in the 30th minute when their captain, Berta Bonastre, rattled the Indian cage.
The goal refused to take the fight out of the Indians, as they drew level for the second time when Navneet Kaur pulled off a scintillating reverse-hit goal a minute before the half-time hooter, to ensure both teams remained on level terms at the break.
India took the lead for the first time in the match in the second half when MN Ponnamma made the most of a short corner to throw the onus on Spain to mount a fightback.
Mercurial striker Rani Rampal sounded the board in the 48th minute to make the scoreline 4-2, leaving the sparse Indian crowd at the Warsteiner Hockey Stadium in raptures.
Spain tried hard to come back into the contest, but India nullified all their designs, keeping them at bay for an impressive 4-2 victory.