POTCHEFSTROOM, April 9 (PTI): History beckons the Indian women’s hockey team as it eyes a maiden final berth in the FIH Junior World Cup but in three-time champions, the Netherlands a stern test awaits it in the semifinal here on Sunday.
India’s best performance in the tournament so far is a Bronze medal finish in the 2013 edition of the event in Monchengladbach, Germany.
Unbeaten so far in the tournament, the Indians have exceeded expectations in the event, beating Wales 5-1, upsetting Germany (2-1), Malaysia (4-0) and Korea (3-0).
It was a cohesive effort from the Indians in the tournament so far with all departments clicking for the Salima Tete-led side.
India’s forward line has shone bright with the strikers scoring as many as 12 goals so far and conceded just two.
Young striker Mumtaz Khan has been the cynosure of all eyes, scoring six goals, including a hat-trick so far in the event, while Lalremsiami, Lalrindiki and Sharmila Devi completed her brilliantly.
The presence of three Tokyo Olympians in skipper Tete, Lalremsiami and Sharmila has worked wonders for the Indians in the tournament in terms of their experience.
Credit must also go to the Indian midfield which played an instrumental role in creating numerous scoring opportunities for the side.
While one expects the forwardline and midfield to contribute, it is the team’s backline led by goalkeeper Bichu Devi Karibam that stood out so far.
Young Bichu, who recently made her senior team debut in the FIH Pro League, has been a revelation under the bar for India, denying the opposition with breath-taking saves on numerous occasions.
But besides her performance, it is Bichu’s enigmatic celebrations after every save that caught the attention of all.
Having said that it won’t be easy against the Dutch as besides being three-time champions, they finished runner-up in the last edition of the event in Santiago, Chine and would be eager to reverse that result in this year’s event.
Just like India, Netherlands too finished their pool engagements on top with three wins from as many games and then got the better of South Africa 5-0 in the quarterfinals.
But in in-form India, the Dutch girls are bound to face their first real test in the competition.
In the other semi-final, Germany and England will square off against each other.