Indian girls created history on Sunday by winning their first-ever Junior World Cup hockey bronze medal after beating England 3-2 on penalties in Monchengladbach, Germany. This is India's first medal ever in a World Cup competition. A fourth place finish by the senior girls in the 1974 World Cup in Mandelieu, France was India's previous best. (Also read: Hockey India announces cash prize)
(Update: The Netherlands won Gold after defeating Argentina 4-2 in a shoot-out drama)
The star of the show for India was goalkeeper Bigan Soy, who hadn't played even for a minute in the tournament prior to this game. With the result at 1-1 after 70 minutes of action, India replaced their first choice goalkeeper Ningombam with Soy. In the shootout, where only 5 out of the 14 penalties were converted, Soy saved five attempts from the English women as India escaped with a 3-2 margin on penalties. Rani kept her nerve to score twice while Navneet Kaur struck the winning goal.
During regulation time, England started off the better of the two sides, but failed to exploit most of their opportunities. Against the run of play, a swift counter-attack saw India take the lead through Rani in the 13th minute. The goal gave the Indian girls confidence as they dominated for the remainder of the first period.
England came out with a positive frame of mind in the second half and got their equalizer through Anna Toman. The Derbyshire girl flicked the ball past Ningombam in a crowded circle. As the match headed towards the final minutes of regulation time, the teams played ultra-defensive hockey. The shootout turned out to be a comedy of errors with India winning by the barest of margins. (In pics: Indian girls create history)
"Our goalkeeper Bigan Soy did a great job. It was clear, when it comes down to shoot-outs, she will be in the goal," said India coach Neil Hawgood after the match, referring to the strategy of putting Soy in goal in case of a penalty shootout.
Soy was delighted to be given the opportunity and contribute to her team's success. "I did my very best and it's a good feeling to know that I saved my team. I'm very happy. It now feels as I would have played the whole tournament," she said. (We were mentally prepared, says Rani)
Remarkably, this victory in Germany is a first-ever World Cup medal for women in any FIH world event. The men's side had won gold in 1975 (Kuala Lumpur), silver in 1973 (Amstelveen, Holland) and bronze in 1971 (Barcelona, Spain). Indian women's most famous victory prior to this junior World Cup was the gold medal 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England.