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Junior women’s hockey WC: Indian girls go down 2-3 to Belgium in a close encounter

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Santiago, Dec 2 (IANS) The Indian women's team came back from a two-goal deficit but suffered a narrow 3-2 defeat to Belgium in their third and final preliminary league match in the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023 on Saturday.

Annu (47’, 51’) scored a brace for India after Noa Schreurs (5’) and France De Mot (42’) had given Belgium the lead. Astrid Bonami netted the winner in the 52nd minute and Belgium weathered some strong attacks by the Indian girls in the hard-fought encounter.

India quickly established a passing rhythm, applying a pressing game to exert pressure on Belgium. Despite securing an early penalty corner, India couldn't convert it into a goal.

Belgium, however, not only defended solidly to deny India an early advantage but also initiated counter-attacks. This strategy paid off when Noa Schreurs (5’) scored a remarkable field goal, granting Belgium an early lead.

With the score in their favour, Belgium intensified pressure by frequently penetrating the circle, restricting India's chances of equalising in the opening quarter, which concluded with Belgium leading 1-0.

Determined to turn the tide, India adopted an aggressive stance in the second quarter while emphasising possession. Nevertheless, Belgium's steadfast defense thwarted India's attempts, preserving their 1-0 lead at halftime as the second quarter ended goalless.

Keen to maintain their lead, Belgium prioritised ball possession in the third quarter while consistently penetrating India's circle. Despite their efforts, a remarkable save by Khushboo denied Belgium from furthering their advantage.

However, Belgium eventually broke through as France De Mot (42’) skillfully converted a penalty corner, doubling their lead. The penultimate quarter concluded 2-0 in favour of Belgium.

In the final quarter, India launched an immediate offensive, leading to their first goal of the match by Annu (47’) from a penalty corner, narrowing the deficit.

Empowered by this breakthrough, India intensified their attacks, resulting in a crucial penalty stroke that Annu (51’) calmly converted, levelling the score. But, moments later, Belgium were also awarded a penalty stroke, which was slotted past India’s goalkeeper by Astrid Bonami (52’) to put her side in front again.

Hopeful of finding the equaliser again, India attacked relentlessly and tried hard to breach Belgium's defense but couldn’t, ultimately succumbing to a 3-2 defeat.

As per the current Pool C standings, India is second on the points table with three points from as many games and a better goal difference than third-placed Germany, who have three points from two games.

--IANS

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