FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup: Fourth title for the Netherlands while Germany takes silver; England wins bronze after close encounter with India; Argentina and South Africa sign off with victories

It was a day of cheers and disappoints as the curtains were rung down on the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup Tournament at Potchefstroom on Tuesday. While the Netherlands, England, Argentina and the hosts South Africa were all smiles by signing off the event on victorious note, disappointment was writ large on Germany, India, USA and Korea as they ended the event on a losing note.

The Netherlands were crowned FIH Junior Women’s Hockey World Cup champions after a final against Germany that absolutely oozed class. 

Germany threw everything at the Netherlands and was rewarded by being the only team to score against the team orange. However, this will always be remembered as the event where the Netherlands was the dominant force from start to finish and, even when under huge pressure from its European rivals, there was no way the excellent Rosa Fernig and her team were going to let any other team steal its thunder.

The Netherlands scored 49 goals and conceded just one to emerge the only team that remained unscathed in the tournament

Where Germany probed, Netherlands stood strong and, when the opportunity to score came, it did so. The game management in the final minutes was as outstanding as every other aspect of its play. 

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

Earlier in the day, hosts  South Africa and USA played out an exciting and momentum-switching match that saw the former 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 its campaign in fifth position. Its victory over Korea was an exhibition of compelling, ruthless attacking hockey that left its opponents shellshocked in the face of a goalscoring onslaught. 

With 202 goals, some amazing performances, good umpiring, a fantastic venue and a  worthy champion there is little doubt that the ninth edition of the FIH Women’s Junior World Cup has been a roaring success. 

Early pressure from South Africa earned it  a penalty corner in the opening minute of the match. Seconds later USA striker Hope Rose was firing at the South African goal after a swift counter-attack. 

South Africa took the lead through Bianca Wood. She latched onto a Kayla de Vaal cross and fired home.

The hosts doubled its lead in the 12th minute when Jean-Leigh du Toit was able to show her ability from the top of the circle. Her drag-flick gave Annabel Skubisz no chance of making a save.

Despite being 2-0 down, the USA was far from out of this game. The dangerous trio of Charlotte de Vries, Ashley Sessa and Hope Rose always looked capable of creating chances when they went on the attack.

Tamla Kock paved way for  the third  goal with a lovely jinking move past the USA defenders, before she hit the ball across the circle for Mikkela le Roux to tip the ball past Skubisz. 

A three-goal cushion allowed South Africa to play with far more freedom than its opponents in the early stages of the second half. 

All that changed in the 38th minute when Josie Varney got the ball possession in midfield before moving in to the South African circle where her reverse stick shot wrong-footed Mishka Ellis to put USA back in the game.

USA’s second goal came from the quick reaction of Abigail Tamer as she pounced  upon a free ball and squeezed it past Amelie Claasen in the South Africa goal.

Player of the Match South Africa’s Edith Molikoe: “The girls put a lot of effort into this match and we wanted to finish on a high. This was probably our best performance of the tournament. After this, some of us will be preparing for the Women’s World Cup and the Commonwealth Games later this year. A lot of youngsters watching will see this as a moment of history. The next generation will see this and want to do better, so the next team can finish top three.’

South Africa Head Coach Lenise Marais said: ‘We had some moments where we really dominated and thankfully we scored three goals. We wanted to kill the game off with a fourth goal and we didn’t but our defence held out for us. At the start of the tournament we wanted to get through to the top eight, which we did. And we wanted to finish with a win, that was important.’

Tracey Paul, Head Coach to USA said: ‘Losing is always disappointing but finishing in the top eight is an achievement. Credit to South Africa, they played a hard, tough tournament. I have seen a lot of growth among our players and we have a lot of rising stars. It was a fantastic experience. ‘

USA’s captain Kayla Blas said: ‘As the USA, we really don’t give up and that was really noticeable today. This Junior World Cup has been a fantastic experience, playing against world class opponents day in and day out was really something exceptional.’

South Africa finish the competition in seventh place, their best finish since 2001. For USA, an eighth place finish mirrors their achievements in 2016.

In the game against Korea, Argentina had dominated play but, despite several attempts, the South American side went 1-0 ahead via a goal scored by Maria Adorno who received the ball from Daiana Pacheco and turned it past Lee Seoyeon, the Korea goalkeeper. 

Argentina doubled its lead two minutes into the second quarter. Sofia Cairo was the scorer as she was able to lift the ball over Lee Seoyeon for her first goal of the tournament.

For its part, Korea was playing a defensive game. 

The Asian team’s task got tougher when Sol Pagella scored a third goal just ahead of half time. 

The fourth goal came after a lull in goalmouth action for the first part of the second half. Argentina had been patiently playing the ball around the pitch, moving closer and closer to the Korea circle. Then, when the gap opened, Cairo was able to drive forward and Paula Santamarina was on hand to strike the ball home.  

With a four goal cushion, Argentina was able to play more expansive hockey and the fifth goal came when Maria Cerundolo was able to finish the move in style.

A few seconds later, Catalina Andrada was able to make it six with Argentina’s first penalty corner goal of the match. 

Argentina continued to play its compelling style of attacking hockey and Korea just had no answer to the onslaught. The seventh goal was scored by Daiana Pacheco. A deserving reward for her energetic and hard-working performance. 

Lee Seoyeon continued to stand up to the endless stream of Argentina attacks but she had no answer to Brisa Brugesser as she shot fiercely for goal eight. Paula Santamarina scored her second when she was given space to turn and shoot and an unmarked Victoria Manuela brought up the tenth goal. 

Player of the Match, Paula Santamarina said: ‘We are very happy that we won but most importantly we are happy because we played our style of hockey in this match. I had a lovely time here in South Africa. It was my first international tournament and it has been fantastic experience.’

A delighted Argentina Head Coach, Fernando Ferrara said: ’I am very happy because the players were good today. They played very fluid hockey. For us it has been a good experience, it was nice to be in beautiful South Africa.’

Head Coach of Korea, You Moon Ki said: ‘Our last match was against a very strong Argentina and my players were very tired. We will take what we have learnt back to Korea and that will help our preparations for the next Junior World Cup.’

Early pressure from India signalled its intent to win its final match but two penalty corner attempts from Deepika were well saved by Mila Welch and it was clear that England had brought its own A game to this encounter. 

England had one shot just ahead of the whistle for the end of the first quarter through Claudia Swain but the shot flew high over Devi Kharibam’s goal.

It was England who was the first to break the deadlock. Captain Millie Giglio took the ball into the India circle and her shot bobbled in front of Devi Kharibam and trickled over her line.

India responded well and three minutes later Mumtaz Khan scored her sixth goal of the tournament when she followed up on an initial shot that had been saved by Welch. 

The game continued in the same vein, with India just shading possession but England’s defence putting in some great tackles. Beauty Dung Dung had a golden opportunity to put India ahead but her shot was charged down by Welch. Then Giglio came close to adding to her first goal but her shot was well-saved by Kharibam.

The third quarter was evenly matched and neither side really created any clear chances. Two different styles of play were in evidence. India was looking to play the ball through midfield, while England was building up attacks along the flanks. 

The second Indian goal came in the 47th minute. It was a hammer blow to the hard-working England. Mumtaz Khan scored her seventh of the tournament after a rebound fell to her and she was able to slam it home. 

England removed its goalkeeper with six minutes still left on the clock and this gave the team an advantage that it finally made pay when Claudia Swain was able to latch onto a cross from Maddie Axford. This sent the game to shoot-out and England was faultless as its first three players scored. Evie Wood in the England goal was able to block all three India attempts. 

The result was the reverse of the 2013 bronze medal match when India beat England on a penalty shoot-out. 

Player of the Match, Maddie Axford said: ‘’That was an amazing feeling, I can’t believe it. i’m so happy for the group. Everyone put such a shift in. Everyone held their own and we didn’t give up to the end.’

England captain Milli Giglio said: ‘Not only are we the youngest team ever to participate for England at this level but we have just made history because we’ve never won a medal at this level. We came together two months ago, brand new team and brand new people and we smashed it.’

England’s Head Coach Simon Letchford said: ‘Firstly, very well played to India, it is harsh to lose in that way. From our perspective, every game we have learnt from.’

A disappointed India Head Coach, Erik Wonink said: The match only counts what the score was. I think the girls did develop greatly over the tournament and made huge improvement and great steps. Now we hand them over to the next teams.’

India captain Tete Salima said: ‘We are very disappointed to have lost and it was hard luck today but well done to England and we are still good. Next time we will try to do even better.’

Coming into this game, 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 need to find a way to score against 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 run ragged as it chased the ball around the pitch. 

However, as the half counted down, the German resistance paid off and it started to make in-roads of its own. The final action of the half saw the Netherlands defence being probed for  the first time this tournament. 

The 200th goal of this tournament and the first against the Netherlands was scored by Germany’s Sophia Schwabe. 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 goal wards. Beetsma needed no second invite to flick it home.

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 sharp shooter 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 it attacked. This was a final with class written all over it, but in the end, there was only really one winner.

Tessa Beetsma: ‘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 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 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.’

Individual Awards

Top Scorer: Jip Dicke (the Netherlands)  

Goalkeeper of the Tournament: Mali Wichmann (Germany)

Player of the Tournament: Stine Kurz (Germany)

Final places:

1. Netherlands
2. Germany
3. England
4. India
5. Argentina
6. Korea
7. South Africa 
8. USA
9. Ireland
10. Austria
11. Malaysia
12 Zimbabwe
13. Uruguay
14. Wales
15 Canada

USA 2, South Africa 3 

Player of the Match: Edith Molikoe (South Africa)
Result: Match 40
Korea 0, Argentina 10
Player of the Match: Paula Santamarina (Argentina)
England 2, India 2 (England win shoot-out 3-0)
Player of the Match: Maddie Axford (England)
Netherlands 3, Germany 1
Player of the Match: Tessa Beetsma (the Netherlands)