India bowed out of the 2023 FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup on Saturday after suffering a narrow 3-2 defeat against Belgium in their third and final Pool game in Santiago, Chile.

Annu (47’, 51’) scored a brace for India, while Noa Schreurs (5’), France De Mot (42’), and Astrid Bonami (52’) netted a goal each for Belgium.

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 Schreurs scored a remarkable field goal, granting Belgium an early lead.

With the score in their favour, Belgium intensified their pressure by frequently penetrating the circle, restricting India’s chances of equalizing 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 emphasizing 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 prioritized 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 De Mot skilfully 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 from a penalty corner, narrowing the deficit. Empowered by this breakthrough, India intensified their attacks, resulting in a crucial penalty stroke that Annu 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 defence but couldn’t, ultimately succumbing to a 3-2 defeat.

India finished third in pool C with three points and missed out on a place in the quarter-finals. Belgium topped the pool with nine points while Germany finished second with six points to qualify for the knockout stages.