The Indian Junior Women's Hockey Team emerged Champions of the Women's Junior Asia Cup 2023 held in Kakamigahara, Gifu Prefecture, Japan by defeating Korea with a score of 2-1 in a captivating Final match on Sunday.
While Annu (22’) and Neelam (41’) scored one goal each for India, it was the team's collective efforts that ultimately led to their triumphant victory in this crucial encounter.
Notably, this is the first time that India have won the Women's Junior Asia Cup.
In acknowledgment of the team's exceptional performance and their undefeated streak in the prestigious tournament, leading them to secure a spot in the FIH Women's Junior World Cup 2023 in Chile, the Hockey India Executive Board has proudly declared a cash prize of INR 2.00 Lakh for each player, while the support staff will receive INR 1.00 Lakh each as a token of appreciation.
In expressing his congratulations, Hockey India President Padma Shri Dr. Dilip Tirkey lauded the Indian Junior Women's Team for their glorious achievement and said, “We are filled with immense pride as the Indian Junior Women's team clinched their maiden Junior Asia Cup, leaving us all in awe.
“Their exceptional display of talent and determination has been truly promising. This triumph has solidified their status as a dominant force in the field, and I firmly believe it will serve as a strong foundation for their upcoming challenge at the Junior World Cup later this year.
“To recognize their outstanding achievement, Hockey India has decided to honour the players with a well-deserved cash award. I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the team and the dedicated support staff for their unwavering efforts in bringing glory to our nation.”
Also, Hockey India Secretary General Shri Bhola Nath Singh conveyed his heartfelt wishes to the team for their triumphant campaign and commended the team's exceptional display of character and sportsmanship in every single match.
“In each match, the team consistently demonstrated remarkable character and embraced the true spirit of the game. The team's sustained triumph at the Junior Asia Cup shows that the future of hockey in India is in safe hands.
“The title victory also serves as a strong testament to the effectiveness of Hockey India's national program for young and emerging players. I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the team and the dedicated support staff for their unwavering efforts in helping the Indian team win their maiden Women Junior Asia Cup,” Singh said.
India started the game on an attacking note by winning a penalty corner in the opening minute of the game, but they failed to capitalise on it. However, Korea shifted the momentum in their favour by counter-attacking and controlling the possession. They also won an early penalty corner but Neelam made a goal-line clearance to deny Korea from taking the lead. Despite both teams playing attacking game, the first quarter ended goalless.
Korea stuck to their attacking approach in the second quarter as well thus pushing India on backfoot. Kore were also awarded quite a few penalty corners, however, India not only stood strong in defence to keep the opposition’s attackers at bay, but also put Korea under pressure by taking the lead through Annu (22’) who calmly converted a penalty stroke.
However, India’s lead didn’t last long as Seoyeon Park (25’) scored an equaliser for Korea through a well-placed shot from inside the D. The second quarter didn’t witness anymore goals as both teams went into the half-time break with the score levelled at 1-1.
The second half of the match started with Korea focused on keeping the possession, while the Indian team switched to counter-attacking and it paid off as Neelam (41’) brilliantly converted a penalty corner to put India in front as the third quarter ended with the score 2-1 in the favour of the Indian team.
In order to protect their lead, India shifted their focus on defending and controlling the tempo of the game by keeping possession in the fourth quarter, while, on the other hand, Korea made some forced errors and misdirected passes in their desperation of finding an equaliser. Ultimately, India stood strong and stuck to their strategy to win the summit clash 2-1.
Meanwhile, speaking about the Final, Indian Junior Women's Team Captain Preeti said, “Following a 1-1 draw in the round-robin stage, we were acutely aware of the specific areas we needed to excel in order to overcome Korea. The Final match brought about a considerable amount of nerves. However, we knew that as a team we have to play our best game to achieve something special and that’s exactly what we did. We are elated to make our nation proud.”