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Jr women's hockey world cup: the Netherlands crowned champion for fourth time

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Potchefstroom (S.Africa), April 12 (IANS) The Netherlands were on Tuesday crowned FIH Junior Women’s Hockey World Cup champions after beating Germany 3-1 in the final on Tuesday. In a performance that absolutely oozed class, the Netherlands conceded their first goal of the tournament but despite that came back strongly to win the final.

Till the final, the Netherlands had scored 46 goals and conceded none. Germany, by contrast, had lost a pool match but had used that as a springboard to get better with every game. The question was whether the German side had what it takes to breach the Dutch defence, said the FIH in a release.

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The need to find a way to score against the Netherlands increased when Danique van der Veerdonk sent a magnificent drag flick penalty corner past Mali Wichmann in the German goal. The goal came after a sustained period of pressure by the team in orange on the German defence.

As the half progressed, Germany withstood a period of play where the Netherlands just didn’t let up possession. The team in white looked to be run ragged as they chased the ball around the pitch.

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However, as the half counted down, the German resistance paid off and they started to make in-roads of their own. Germany’s Sophia Schwabe scored to make it 1-1. This followed a period of confident and aggressive hockey from the German players.

The scores remained even for two minutes before Tessa Beetsma was able to restore her team’s lead. Maria Steensma worked the ball down the baseline and slipped it goalwards. Beetsma needed no second invite to flick it home.

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It was Beetsma again just 10 minutes later. The ever-excellent Noor Omrani ran down the baseline and her cross found Beetsma waiting in the circle. Not even Wichmann could stop the sharpshooter from scoring her second and Netherlands’ third.

In the final quarter, Germany threw absolutely everything at the Netherlands but the entire team in orange dug deep and defended as well as they attacked.

Tessa Beetsma said after the win, “It was an incredible game and we had to fight against Germany. The defence were great today. My teammates make the goals. I am looking for the goal chance in the six-metre area in front of the goal.”

Netherlands Head Coach Dave Smolenaars said: “The girls worked so hard against very good opponents. I couldn’t be more happy for the progress and the development. We conceded one goal, but we would have liked to have kept it to zero.”

His counterpart, the German Head Coach Akim Bouchouchi said: “We are proud of the medal but we wanted to win this match. We were too nervous in the first half. Congratulations to the Netherlands, they really worked hard for it. We had some chances but we didn’t have the final knockout blow to get the goals we needed. We needed momentum and we didn’t get it.”

In the third-place match, England defeated India 3-0 in the shoot-out after a 2-2 draw to claim the bronze medal.

India looked to be heading for third place as they took a 2-1 lead in the final quarter but England removed their goalkeeper and scored a last-minute goal to send the game to a shoot-out. The England team then put in a faultless performance in the pressure pot of a shoot-out and won their first medal at a Women’s Junior World Cup.

Earlier in the day, host nation South Africa and the USA played out an exciting and momentum-switching match that saw the host nation take a 3-0 lead only to see the perseverance of the USA bring the scores back to 3-2 leading to a very nervous final five minutes. Much to the delight of the home fans, South Africa clung to the lead to finish in seventh place.

Argentina finished their campaign in the fifth position and their victory over Korea was an exhibition of compelling, ruthless attacking hockey that left their opponents shell-shocked in the face of a goalscoring onslaught.

With 202 goals, some amazing performances, quite brilliant umpiring, a fantastic venue and a very worthy champion there is little doubt that the ninth edition of the FIH Women’s Junior World Cup was a roaring success and the performances by these young players promise that international hockey has a very bright future.

–IANS

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