There's a pattern to this team. The Indian women's hockey team at the Junior World Cup start their matches really fast and take their first few opportunities to score. Against Wales, they opened the scoring in the third minute and eventually won the game 5-1. Against Germany, they scored in the first minute and added one more later to win 2-1. Against Malaysia, Mumtaz Khan converted a chance in the ninth minute and India beat them 4-0.
Curiously, there was a slight glitch in this pattern during their quarterfinal game against South Korea, but India turned it around in a space of four minutes with another first quarter blitz.
The opening goal, from Mumtaz, came in the 10th minute. Lalrindki's second came in the 14th. Four minutes. That's all they needed to seal a spot in the semi-final.
Coming into the match, South Korea had scored just one goal in three matches: A 1-0 win over Uruguay in their opening match followed by defeats against Argentina and Uruguay. Vice-captain Ishika Chaudhary had raised concerns about South Korea slowing the game down before the match and their coach Ki Yoo Moon made it clear that counter-attacking was going to be the fulcrum of their gameplan. However, in the opening minutes of the first quarter, it was South Korea who started dominating proceedings. They were winning the balls in the midfield with their high press, had better possession, strung a few neat passes to penetrate the circle and even managed to create half a chance. That one came from a grounded pass from the midfield, which found striker Sunghee Jung inside the circle. But without any pressure but she failed to trap the ball. Halfway into the first quarter, South Korea had 62% of the possession. They had penetrated the circle more times (3) than India (2) at that point too. Defending so early in the game was not part of India's gameplan.
Then, suddenly, India clicked into gear.
Sharmila Devi got the ball in the attacking third after a deflection and made a dash from the right flank to the circle. In an attempt to stop her South Korea conceded a penalty corner for dangerous play. Captain Salima Tete took the shot after the trap and the ball deflected off Mumtaz' stick to beat the goalkeeper, her sixth goal of the tournament.
Immediately after, India made another run to the circle from the right, which was defended well by their opponents. A minute later, another attack came from the left. One goal had by now completely changed the momentum of the game. PCs were won, and so were midfield battles.
With 30 seconds left in the first quarter, Lalremsiami won one such battle and pushed ahead. She moved it on to Deepika, who attempted a tomahawk which was saved by goalkeeper Eunji Kim... but not cleanly, the rebound falling kindly to Lalrindiki for a tap in. India 2 - 0 South Korea. Game over.
South Korea had wanted to surprise India with their change in tactics, but couldn't sustain it past the opening 10 minutes.
As the game progressed, it became more physical, but India controlled the game and had better chances. South Korea didn't raise much of a fight. The third goal came in the penultimate quarter, Sangita slotting it home from a close range after Beauty Dungdung missed her shot. At the end of the match, India had 15 shots to South Korea's four, they led circle penetrations 28 to 10. India had 56% of the possession. It had all looked very different in the opening 10 minutes, but that four-minute two-goal blitz meant India regained complete control.
Next up, on Sunday, are the Netherlands. A very different side from the goal-shy South Koreans. In four matches they've scored 43 goals. And have conceded none. A proper test awaits.