Indian girls stun Spain to reach maiden Junior Hockey WC semifinals

India scripted history as they stunned higher-ranked Spain 4-2 to enter the semifinals of the Women's Junior Hockey World Cup for the first time here on Thursday. They may have started the game as underdogs, but the Indian girls rose to the occasion and dished out a spirited performance to tame their higher-rated opponents, and seal a last-four berth for the first time in the history of the event.

India sounded the board twice in each half through Monika (10th minute), Navneet Kaur (34th), Vandana Katariya (41st) and Rani (48th) while Spain's goals came in the first period from the sticks of Xantal Gine (7th) and captain Berta Bonastra (30th).

It was the Spanish girls who struck first through Gine, converting a penalty corner in the seventh minute. India equalised just three minutes later through a field effort from Monika.

Spain restored their lead just five minutes from the lemon break through Bonastra before Navneet restored parity for India with an outstanding reverse stick shot in the dying minutes of the opening half.

India took the initiative after the change of ends and surged ahead in the 41st minute when Katariya converted a penalty corner. Seven minutes later Rani extended India's lead to 4-2.

With 22 minutes still remaining in the game, Spain had plenty of time to forge a comeback and they put pressure on the Indian defence with numerous raids. The Indian backline though stood firm to deny their opponents.

India will take on the winners of the quarterfinal between Netherlands and South Africa in the semifinal on Friday.

Success mantra

MEANWHILE, India's chief coach Neil Hawgood has attributed the women's team's success in the ongoing Junior Hockey World Cup to the experience his wards have attained while playing at the senior level. India fielded more or less the same team, which came a cropper in the FIH World League Round 3 in Rotterdam in June. Hawgood said the experience of playing at the senior level worked wonders for the junior girls.

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