Potchefstroom, South Africa: A Dutch masterclass in teamwork and a magnificent goal scoring performance by Germany means that we now know who will be contesting the FIH Junior Women’s World Cup 2021 on Tuesday 12 April.

In the first semi-final India knew they had a mountain to climb but the Eves started with fire and energy and looked to be capable of causing an upset. However, first the Netherlands contained their opponents and then they turned up the pressure and scored three goals that all had teamwork at their very core. 

While the first semi-final was level pegging for a good portion of the match, the second was one-way traffic as Germany steamrollered England in an 8-0 demolition job. Clever, well-taken penalty corners; commitment in every tackle and every shooting chance, Germany look to have peaked at just the right moment.

In the earlier matches, USA were unable to change the statistics as they once more fell to a skilful and disciplined Argentinian team. And South Africa will be hugely disappointed that they were unable to convert their multiple scoring opportunities when they lost narrowly to a Korea team that was outstanding in defence. 

USA 0-2 Argentina (5-8th place) – Potchefstroom, North West University (RSA)

USA were seeking to overturn history as the two Pan Am teams had met four times before at a Junior World Cup and had never managed to beat their South American rivals in this competition.

The first 10 minutes saw the two teams trading blow for blow. USA midfielder Kathryn Peterson  was instrumental in driving her team forward, seeking to link up with the talented strike force of Ashley Sessa and Hope Rose. However, it was Argentina who created the better opportunities, putting USA goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz to the test. The Leonacitas thought they had taken the lead when Valentina Raposo found the back of the net with a penalty corner but it was disallowed. 

USA Head Coach Tracey Paul called for her team to take shots earlier and as the second quarter started  Lauren Wadas answered the call with a great strike that put Lourdes Perez in the Argentina goal under pressure for the first time. 

It was Argentina who broke the deadlock. For most of the quarter, the USA defence had stood tall in the face of Argentina’s attacking skills, but they couldn’t avoid conceding a penalty corner in the 23rd minute. This time there was no doubt as Juliana Guggini struck the ball past Skubisz.

With USA chasing Argentina’s slender lead, the quality of Argentina’s defence was really highlighted. Time and again, the energetic and willing USA athletes tried to find a way past the blue and white wall but there was no way through. When in possession, Argentina’s players passed the ball with great speed and precision as they sought to wear the USA side down by moving the ball around the field.

No less impressive was the USA defence at the other end of the pitch. As Brisa Bruggesser and Daiana Pacheco threw everything into scoring a second goal, Skubisz and her defence were faultless in their bravery and positioning. 

The game was put beyond doubt with a piece of sheer class from Daiana Pacheo. The midfielder turned on the turbo chargers as she raced from her defensive quarter to the USA circle. Her pass found Victoria Manuele who made no mistake to double her team’s lead.

With five minutes left on the clock, USA Coach Paul removed Skubisz from the goal and USA went on all out attack. Showing great game management, Argentina dealt with the extra field player well and USA were once more unable to find a Junior World Cup victory over their South American rivals. 

Player of the Match and scorer of the opening goal, Juliana Guggini (ARG) said: ‘We came from a hard match (against Germany in the quarter-finals) but we managed to come together and came away with the win today. Even though we are disappointed, there is still a match to play and we hope to finish the highest we can.'

Argentina’s Head Coach Fernando Ferrara said: ’Today it was important to get a result as it is always a difficult match after a disappointing loss, so I am happy with this. I don’t care who we play in the fifth place play-offs, we just want to finish with a win.’

USA Head Coach Tracey Paul said: ‘Congratulations to Argentina, playing  side like them can only make us better in the long term. It is an opportunity to grow and I am proud of the young women out there today. The team will be hungry for a win in their final match.’

The result means that Argentina will now play Korea to finish in fifth position, while USA play host nation South Africa for seventh place. 

South Africa 0-1 Korea  (5-8th place matches) – Potchefstroom, North West University (RSA)

The host nation got off to a sparkling start determined to give the supporters something to cheer in the rainy weather. A penalty corner in the third minute just flew wide but South Africa had showed their intent to play a high tempo, attacking form of hockey.

Not to be outdone, minutes later Korea won their own penalty corner opportunity. Captain Kim Seona’s shot, like that of her South African counterpart, was just wide of Mishka Ellis’s post. 

With just a minute left, South Africa had another penalty corner and this time the variation from Hanrie Louw  went wide of the other post. 

The deadlock was broken through a lovely piece of play from Korea. The goal was scored against the run of play but demonstrated how a swift counter-attack can turn a game on its head. The goal was scored by Choi Nurim but was crafted by Park Yeongeun, who played the most beautiful pass into Choi’s path, putting the striker into a one-on-one with the goalkeeper. 

South Africa tried to come straight back but Jenri Thomas’s attempt at a deflection was well saved by Kim Eunji in the Korea goal. 

As the third quarter counted down, South Africa turned up the heat on Korea with wave after wave of attacks. Korea struggled to contain the speedy running of Onthatile Zulu and Tamlyn Kock but the home side were not able to cap off some fine build up play with a goal.

And so, with 15 minutes left, South Africa set about scoring the all important equaliser, pummelling at the strong and disciplined Korea defence. There will be South African players who replay in their mind the missed opportunities that followed, both from open play and numerous penalty corners. the final statistics showed that South Africa had 28 circle penetrations and 16 shots with no goals scored. 

South Africa’s skipper Zulu was ceaselessly energetic as she used her pace to ghost past the Korea players but, even reduced to 10 players when Kim Seona received a yellow card, the team in red presented a wall that was proved unbreachable.

Player of the Match, Choi Nurim (KOR), said: ‘We tried our best and we are very happy to win this game. Thank you to my team mates.’

And her Head Coach, You Moon Ki was equally delighted: ’Thank you to my players, they managed to win and I am very happy. I thought they were the best team today. Argentina are a very strong team, but we are ready for them.’

A dejected South Africa Coach Lenise Marais said: ‘That was very disappointing, we had the opportunities and that seems to be the theme for this team. It is about efficiency, you can create 100 chances but if you are not efficient you will get nothing from it.’

Korea will now play Argentina for fifth position, while South Africa will face the USA in the race to seventh place. 

Netherlands 3-0 India (Semi-final) – Potchefstroom, North West University (RSA)

The top four goalscorer thus far in the competition were on the pitch for this game, so the spectators could have been forgiven for anticipating a goal-fest. However, the two teams involved have also been the meanest when it comes to conceding goals. Prior to today’s fixture, the Dutch had gone four hours to this point without giving a goal away, while India had conceded just two goals in the four previous matches. 

It was a wonderful start to the game. Mumtaz Khan nearly gave India the dream start as she received the ball from Tete Salima and saw her resulting shot strike Sophie ter Kuile’s goalpost.

Just minutes later Jip Dicke uncharacteristically missed the ball when faced with a clear scoring opportunity after Noor Omrani sent a lovely ball through to the sharp shooter. 

India continued to press forwards with real intensity but then the Dutch did what they do brilliantly. The ball was picked up in defence and 18 swift passes later it was in the back of the India net. The final moves involved a one-two from Luna Fokke to Noor Omrani and onto Tessa Beetsma. Beetsma made no mistake as she shot past Devi Kharibam in the India goal.

Beetsma thought she had scored again just seconds later by some great umpiring by Rebecca Woodcock detected the use of the back of the stick and the scores remained at 1-0.

Possession then batted back and forth, with India causing more problems in 30 minutes than the team in orange had faced all tournament. However, during his half-time talk, India Head Coach Erik Wonink would have been urging his players to push harder to turn chances to goals.

The second half saw the Netherlands begin to push their foot down a little more. The difference between the team in orange and all other teams in Potchefstroom is the speed and accuracy with which they pass the ball; as the second half progressed, India were feeling the full force of the Dutch passing game. 

In the third quarter, the Netherlands created several early chances to put the game out of reach. Luna Fokke, Rosa Fernig and Mette Winter all had good scoring opportunities but India somehow managed to clear their circle and keep their opponents in sight. Priyanka was particularly strong at the heart of the India defence.

And so with 15 minutes left, the game was still wide open. India’s speedy counter attack was always going to pose a threat to the Netherlands and so there was a lot of high tension around the pitch. 

The match was put to bed in the final seven minutes of the game as the Netherlands scored two goals of sublime quality. First Noor Omrani showed great vision to send a cross field pass to Luna Fokke, who used her own body movement to receive the ball and put away the shot. 

This body blow to India was followed seconds later when Maria Steensma sent a pass into the circle and Jip Dicke tipped it home, bringing her tournament tally to 13 - two ahead of teammate Fokke. 

Player of the Match Noor Omrani said: ‘I am so super proud that we have made it to the final. We talked to each other and we said this will be the biggest test and look what we did. India played really well but everyone was contributing to the scoring and happy for each other. I don’t care who we meet in the final. The opposition doesn’t matter to us.’

Talking about the second goal scored by Fokke, Omrani said: ’I got the ball and I was looking at the goal, but Luna [Fokke] and I have some chemistry; I can’t describe it. I saw her running and I thought, yes she needs to get the ball. So I gave her the ball and when she gets the ball, she will always score. I have faith in her and she did it. That goal, taking it to 2-0 meant we could breathe a little bit and chill. It was an amazing goal.’

Netherlands Head Coach Dave Smolenaar said: ‘This means a lot. Winning against a team as strong as India was great. We defended well and scored three beautiful goals. We didn’t start well in the first half, but we loosened up after we scored the goal.’

His counterpart, India’s Head Coach Erik Wonink said: ’I am proud of the girls. We gave a really good fight. We played well in the first half but let it slip a bit in the second. As a group, we learnt so much. In the bronze medal match we will use our skill and speed to aim for that bronze medal.’

England 0-8 Germany (Semi-final) – Potchefstroom, North West University (RSA)

Germany got off to the dream start in the second semi-final of the day when they scored an early penalty corner goal. The goal was created and scored by Verena Neumann who ran the ball into the circle to win the penalty corner and was then the beneficiary of a penalty corner variation, which saw the ball played back to her as the injector. She stooped low to sweep the ball into the net.

England were left stunned just two minutes later when Germany doubled their lead through a fantastically taken drag flick from Stine Kurz. Two penalty corner goals meant the England defence were nervous about conceding another corner. A reluctance to make a tackle would explain why Jette Fleschütz was able to run through the defence and pop the ball past Mila Welch in the England goal to give her side a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead after 15 minutes.

Pauline Heinz increased England’s pain in the second quarter. England had started to make their own in-roads, with Sophia Martin making a great interception but unable to finish with a goal. However, Germany went on a counter attack which saw Julie Bleuel drive forwards before slipping the ball to Sara Strauss. Strauss’s shot rebounded to Pauline Heinz, who was able to fire the ball home, much to the dismay of the England team.

Germany’s conversion rates from penalty corners continued to impress as they added to the scoreboard with a third penalty corner from just five attempts. Verena Neumann was able to repeat her first goal as the penalty corner was played back to her as she moved from the injection point towards the goal.

Neumann scored her hat-trick a minute later when she latched onto a shot into the circle and just did enough to wrong foot Evie Wood who had replaced Mila Welch in the England goal.

Two more goals followed. Sophia Schwabe capped an impressive performance with a goal after Sara Strauss had shown her commitment with a full-length diving effort at the end of the pitch  to keep the ball in play and send it back to Strauss. Then Lily Stoffelsma finished things off with a craftily lifted ball over Woods in the final seconds of the match. 

Player of the Match Verena Neumann said: ‘It was not our best game but we went out as a team and we won it as team. I think we are really happy to play the Netherlands. We know them well and we want to beat them.’

Head Coach Akim Bouchouchi said: ‘I am happy with this game and the impressive finishing. We will celebrate that. Then we will focus on the next game and we will win the next one also. We will watch the video and decide what game plan to use against the Dutch.’

England Head Coach Simon Letchford said: ‘I think there are positives to take from the time we have been in South Africa. As a group we only had three training camps before coming here, so the younger members have learnt a huge amount. What can we take from the game is how to be a better side. When we arrived we set no objectives, we just said we would go as deep as we could into the tournament. We are in the penultimate game, so we couldn’t go too much deeper.‘

The action continues on Monday 11 April, at North West University, where the 9-14th places will be decided. The first match for 13th position will see Wales take on Uruguay. Next up on the schedule, Zimbabwe will face Malaysia for 11th place, then Austria will take on Ireland in the battle for ninth position. 

From 1–12 April, the Watch.Hockey app will be live streaming all matches, everywhere in the world.

FIH Hockey Womens Junior World Cup South Africa 2021 – 10 April 2022

Potchefstroom, North West University (RSA)

Result: Match 32
USA 0-2 Argentina 
Player of the Match: Juliana Guggini (ARG)
Umpires: Gema Calderon (ESP), Kim Yoon Son (KOR) Ines El Hajem (FRA - reserve)

Result: Match 33
South Africa 0, Korea 1
Player of the Match: Choi Nurim
Umpires: Victoria Pazos (PAR), Ilaria Amorosino (ITA), Maria Locatelli (ARG - reserve)

Result: Match 34
Netherlands 3, India 0
Player of the Match: Noor Omrani (NED)
Umpires: Sophie Bockelmann (GER), Rebecca Woodcock (ENG), Alison Keogh (IRL- reserve)

Result: Match 35
England 0, Germany 8
Player of the Match: Verena Neumann (GER)
Umpires: Wanri Venter (RSA), Celine Martin-Schmets (BEL), Lisette Baljon (NED - reserve)

To see the complete match schedule, please click here.

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