After three victories in three matches, India will aim to maintain their winning run against South Korea and book a spot in the semifinals of the Women's FIH Hockey Junior World Cup.
Here's an all you need to know about quarterfinal game in Potchefstroom, South Africa:
When is the match? April 8, Friday, 12.30 pm IST.
Where to watch: Live on Watch Hockey and Fancode.
India's progress so far
India topped Group D with nine points from three games. They opened their campaign in the best way possible, beating Wales 5-1 and followed it up with a gritty 2-1 win against Germany. Six points from two matches ensured they qualified to the quarters with a game to spare. In their final group game, India continued their streak with a 4-0 win over Malaysia.
What worked for India
Salima Tete and co. have been quite impressive in the tournament, scoring as many as 11 goals in three matches, underlining their ability to convert chances.
While the team's attacking game reaped dividends, it was their defensive display which made the difference against Germany, who are one of the favourites for the trophy. India endured a flurry of attacks from Germany after taking an early lead with their best moment coming from goalkeeper Bichu Devi, who superbly saved a penalty stroke in the second quarter. Germany struggled to break India's defence for large parts of the match, and it took a brilliant individual run from Jule Bleuel to score a goal in the final minutes. However, India soaked the pressure and came out on top with a 2-1 victory.
The infusion of experience has also helped. Apart from three Olympians in the team, a couple of players made significant progress which resulted in a call up to the senior squad. Bichu is one of those players and she credited her confident display to the experience of playing with the senior team.
"I think that exposure was very important for me. While I was nervous and felt the pressure during my Pro League debut match, I am able to play here without any pressure and with a free mind. We have come into this tournament with a burning desire to win and I think we are showcasing that attitude on the field," Bichu said.
The same thoughts were echoed by vice-captain, Ishika Chaudhary. "Many of us have been playing together for over three years now, there's good team bonding and we understand each other's strengths and weaknesses. But getting to play with the seniors over these last few months and working with them for the FIH Pro League matches was a big advantage."
"It helped us understand the structure better and some of us who made our debut with the senior side gained a lot of confidence. This has benefited us a lot in our campaign."
Players who impressed
Striker Mumtaz Khan has been prolific so far, scoring five goals in the tournament, including a hat trick against Malaysia. Goalkeeper Bichu Devi also proved her mettle in crunch situations. However, the biggest strength for India has been the influence of Salima Tete, Sharmila Devi and Lalremsiami - who've already played regularly for the senior team. Salima's presence in the midfield has been immense for the team as her relentless attacking plays caused a lot of trouble for India's opponents.
South Korea's form
Unlike India, South Korea struggled in the group stage, winning just one match against Uruguay. They lost their last two matches to Argentina and Austria, finishing second in their group behind Argentina. They scored only once in three games and conceded three goals. The winner of this match will likely face Netherlands in the semifinals, who have been sensational with 38 goals in three games, while not conceding any goal.
Where could India struggle
Regarding South Korea's gameplan, Ishika said, "Yes, speed has been our advantage and Korea is a team who can slow their opponent down. This is something we will be conscious about, and we try to work our way around it and focus on creating space."
India start fast and they've been successful in creating scoring opportunities and converting them. South Korea's deep defending tactics might lead to frustration and India could be vulnerable on counter-attacks.