Nations Cup: India Win Inaugural Nations Cup and Book Pro-league Spot

Gurjit Kaur and fellow defenders shine as India are crowned inaugural champions at the FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup Spain 2022

India are the champions of the inaugural FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup Spain 2022, narrowly defeating hosts Spain in front of an electric crowd in the finals at Valencia, Spain!

Playing in a heavyweight clash against Spain, Gurjit Kaur who had rediscovered her scoring form in India’s last pool stage game against South Africa, stepped up early and gave India the lead from a penalty corner in the 6th minute and that would be the only goal to be scored in the match as the defenses for both teams took over.

WP92212172136 - Nations Cup: India Win Inaugural Nations Cup and Book Pro-league Spot - Gurjit Kaur and fellow defenders shine as India are crowned inaugural champions at the FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup Spain 2022
VALENCIA – FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup Spain 2022 20 Spain v India (Final) Photo: Vandana Katariya Laura Barrios COPYRIGHT WORLDSPORTPICS WILL PALMER

The quality of the game was extremely high as both teams gave it their all through the 60 minutes and each had excellent attacking opportunities, but were met by even better defensive efforts on both sides. Indian defenders particularly played the game of their lives, repelling wave after wave of Spanish attacks towards the end of the game, showcasing excellent defensive discipline, keeping a clean sheet and conceding just 2 penalty corners in all of the second half, while facing immense pressure.

With the win India have now qualified for the FIH Hockey Pro League 2023-24 season!

WP92212172871 - Nations Cup: India Win Inaugural Nations Cup and Book Pro-league Spot - Gurjit Kaur and fellow defenders shine as India are crowned inaugural champions at the FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup Spain 2022
VALENCIA – FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup Spain 2022 20 Spain v India (Final) Photo: India wins with 1-0 from Spain Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam COPYRIGHT WORLDSPORTPICS WILL PALMER

Earlier in the day Chile relied on a late 4th quarter surge to blitz South Africa and end their campaign on a high, winning the game 4-1. With the win Chile finished in the 7th position, while South Africa, who had promising moments throughout the tournament, playing with a very young team, finished 8th. 

The 7th position match was followed by the 5th place match between Italy and Korea. The two teams had played out a 1-1 draw earlier in the tournament, and when the full time whistle was blown the teams found themselves tied at the same scoreline. The shoot-outs however went the way of the Italians, who had their keeper Lucia Caruso to thank, for stopping 4 out of the 5 Korean shoot-out attempts, giving Italy an impressive 5th-placed finish in the Nations Cup.

The bronze medal match produced great thrills in the second half with Ireland and Japan trading 4 goals in the fourth quarter, after a goalless first half. Japan pushed harder for a winner in the final quarter and found it through captain Yuri Nagai who put in the finishing touches to a brilliantly worked team move, with less than 4 minutes left on the clock. Irish attempts at finding an equalizer were blocked well by the Japanese defense, led by a fantastic all-round display by Yu Asai. 

7th Place Match: South Africa vs Chile 1-4 

South Africa and Chile both came into the FIH Hockey Nations Cup 2022 hoping for a better finish than 7th, but the competition has been stiff throughout the tournament and both teams had their good moments despite having to settle for the final two spots. 

Chile were the better team for the majority of the game and the score could have been higher in their favor but South African keeper Anelle van Deventer continued to excel in the goal, keeping South Africa in the game for a long time, before a late surge by Chile in the final 7 minutes. 

Chile opened the scoring in the 27th minute as a Maldonado deflection that looked like it was heading out, took an inside edge of the keeper’s stick and went in. South Africa were quick to answer back as captain Quanita Bobbs’ penalty corner brought them level a minute before half. 

Chile kept prodding in the second half, but had to wait till the 53rd minute to breach the South African defense, as a flat penalty corner hit by Denise Losada deflected off the South African rushers stick and lifted over the keeper and gave Chile the lead. The goal opened the floodgates for Chile as they added two more goals, first through a stunning reverse shot by Francisca Tala and second through a brilliant drag flick by Fernanda Arrieta to finish the Nations Cup in the 7th place. 

Francisca Tala was awarded the player of the match and said: “I think the whole team deserves this award today. We came up against a resolute team and kept at it till the goals finally started coming our way.”

5th Place Match: Italy vs Korea 1-1 (SO: 2-1)

Italy and Korea met in the opening game of the tournament on day 1 and could not be separated on that day, with the game ending in a 1-1 draw. As the two teams met in the 5th place match today, the scoreline remained the same, but there were to be shoot-outs at the end to separate the two sides at the end, and the tie broke Italy’s way thanks to Lucia Caruso, who was stellar in the game as well as the shoot-out. 

Italy were the team to score in the contest once again, as captain Federica Carta dispatched a brilliant drag flick from a penalty corner in the 33rd minute after a goalless first-half. Korea left it late to get on level terms, but as they kept the pressure up, they finally induced an error from the Italian defense and won a penalty stroke, which was placed perfectly into the left corner by Hyejin Cho. 

As neither team could find a goal to win in regular time, the match headed to a shoot-out. Korea switched their keeper as Jinmin Lee stepped in for Eunji Kim, while Italy stuck with Lucia Caruso. Both keepers performed remarkably in the shoot-out, but it was Lucia Caruso who stopped 4 out of the 5 attempts to give Italy the win and the 5th place. Caruosa was also named player of the match and said: “I am really proud of the team. We wanted to show everyone that we belong in competitions like this and we can hold our own against some of the best teams in the world and we have achieved that, so I am very very happy.”

Bronze Medal Match: Japan vs Ireland 3-2

Japan and Ireland both came very close to making the finals of the Nations Cup in the semi-finals last evening, but had to quickly set the disappointment behind them as they faced each other in the bronze medal match. And both teams bounced back remarkably early in the game. While there were no goals in the first half, the teams still put on a brave display of attacking hockey. Japan especially got close to scoring multiple times, but Elizabeth Murphy was once again huge in the Irish goal and kept the score level at half time. 

Ireland opened the scoring in the 3rd quarter as a powerful low hit into the Japanese circle was deflected in by Kathryn Mullan. Japan had an instant response as just a couple of minutes later they won a penalty corner and while Murphy stopped the first shot, the rebound fell to Mami Karino, who tapped the ball into an empty goal. Ireland and Japan traded penalty corner goals once again in the 3rd quarter, setting up an exciting final quarter finish. 

Japan went all out in search of a winning goal and found it with 4 minutes left on the clock as a fantastic ball into the circle was first deflected by Mai Toriyama, and then by captain Yuri Nagai, to give Japan the lead that they would hold on to till the final whistle to seal the win and the bronze medal. Yu Asai, who excelled all over the field for Japan, was awarded the player of the match and said: “A good team performance today. We can always rely on the defense to carry us forward and that worked out for us today.”

Gold Medal Match: Spain vs India 0-1

The two highest ranked teams, and the two form teams of the tournament, Spain and India set-up a mouthwatering clash in the finals to close out the FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup Spain 2022, with the title and qualification to the FIH Hockey Pro League 2023-24 up for grabs. Spain started the game on the front foot, as India moved away from their high press, which they employed throughout the tournament, to a midfield press. Spain received a penalty corner in the 5th minute, but Savita used her boots brilliantly to stretch out and kick the attempt away. India counter-attacked right away and won a penalty corner themselves. Gurjit who found her form in the final pool stage game stepped up and placed a drag flick perfectly between the keeper and the post defender to hand India the lead. India came close to scoring once again just a minute later as another flick by Gurjit was touched narrowly wide by the Spanish keeper. Spain entered the Indian circle twice in the final minutes of the first half, but India kept their discipline and cleared their lines to take the slender lead to the second half. 

A cagey third quarter followed as Spain pressed higher and higher. They finally put the ball in the back of the goal after Savita had saved an initial shot by Ycart, but India reviewed and the goal was overturned as Ycart had not moved the ball 5 meters before entering the Indian circle. India survived all further attempts by Spain to breach their defense in the 3rd quarter, leaving Spain 15 minutes to find a goal.

The fourth quarter was much of the same, as Spain continued to surge forward and overload the Indian circle, but India continued to play brilliant disciplined defense, not letting Spain come close to scoring throughout. Gurjit Kaur and Deep Grace Ekka were brilliant in defense alongside Udita and Nikki Pradhan, as the clock ran out and India became the champions of the inaugural FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup Spain 2022 and qualified for the FIH Hockey Pro League. Player of the match was awarded to Neha, who was crucial for India in releasing the pressure allowing them to hold the lead for 54 minutes. As she received her award Neha spoke of her team’s brilliant victory and said: “We took an early lead and played really well as a complete unit to protect it and come out as winners.” 

FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup Spain 2022 

Individual Awards

Best Player: Lucia Jimenez (ESP)

Best Junior Player: Sarah Mcauley (IRL)

Best Goalkeeper: Savita (IND)

Hero Top Scorer: Kathryn Mullan (IRL)

17 December 2022 Results

Result: Match 1

South Africa 1-4 Chile

Player of the Match: Francisca Tala (CHI)

Umpires: Ana Faias (POR), Durga Devi (IND), Magali Sergeant (BEL-video)

Result: Match 2

Italy 1-1 Korea (SO: 2-1)

Player of the Match: Lucia Caruso (ITA)

Umpires: Natalia Lodeiro (URU), Ymkje van Slooten (NED), Vilma Bagdanskiene (LTU-video)

Result: Match 3

Japan 3-2 Ireland

Player of the Match: Yu Asai (JPN)

Umpires: Magali Sergeant (BEL), Kristy Robertson (AUS), Ana Faias (POR-video)

Result: Match 4

Spain 0-1 India 

Player of the Match: Neha (IND)

Umpires: Junko Wagatsuma (JPN), Mariana Reydo (ARG), Ymkje van Slooten (NED-video)

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