Germany: In what could only be described as a cinematic photo-finish for a seemingly endless era of dismal underperformance culminating in successive morale-shattering losses, the least fancied bunch of spirited Indian girls held their nerves to get past England 3-2 on penalties to earn a podium finish at Junior Women's World Cup here on Sunday.
The Indians showed remarkable maturity in the thrilling match to clinch the bronze, thus becoming the first women's hockey team from India to win a medal in a World Cup.
India's gamble to field goalkeeper Bigan Soy for the first time in the tournament during the penalties paid off as she came up with several saves to help the team finish on the podium.
"It means a lot to our kids' psychology that they can actually win a medal," India's coach Neil Hawgood said after the match. "Our goalkeeper Bigan Soy, who had not played even a minute in the whole tournament, did a great job. It was (always) clear, (that) when it comes down to shootouts, she will be in the goal," he was quoted as saying.
"I did my very best and it's a good to know that I saved my team. I'm very happy. It now feels as if I have played the entire tournament," Soy, the star in India’s win, said.
Rani, who was later named Player of the Tournament,’ opened the account for India in the 13th minute of the match before England equalized in the 55th through Anna Toman as both team teams finished the regulation time tied 1-1. The penalty shootout saw more misses than hits as both the sides failed to score from four strokes each.
Vice-captain Rani said that the team was well-prepared. "We were mentally prepared for the shootouts, which was good. This is our first-ever medal in a Junior World Cup, now we will celebrate," Rani said. This was the best finish by the team in the event, having finished outside top-eight in their earlier three attempts.
Meanwhile, Hockey India (HI) on Sunday announced a cash reward of Rs. 1 lakh each to the bronze-winning players. Chief coach Hawgood will also receive a cash reward of Rs. one lakh.
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