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Botha’s brace not enough

The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team suffered the injustice of conceding two illegitimate goals as they went down 5-3 to Korea in their final Pool B match at the Hockey World Cup in Rosario, Argentina on Monday night after the scores were 1-1 at half-time.

In the earlier match, China beat Spain 6-0 meaning South Africa will be playing for ninth/10th place position at 6.30 pm (SA time) on Friday against New Zealand or Japan, to be determined after Tuesday’s final round of Pool A matches.

SA Hockey World’s Jon Cook writes that the scores read 1-1 at half-time with South Africa’s Sulette Damons and Korea’s Seon Mi Park getting on the scoresheet with a penalty stroke that shouldn’t have been awarded.

Two Cindy Botha goals put SA 3-1 up during the second half but a Korean blitzkrieg towards the end, which included an illegitimate penalty corner goal, dashed world number 12 Investec South Africa’s hopes of a shot at seventh place.

Still, playing for ninth is higher than their ranking, and the tournament must be considered a success.  South Africa were dealt a blow when experienced forward Jen Wilson was forced to withdraw but they stunned the Koreans with a second-minute goal when Kath Taylor received the ball from the right, stole along the baseline and fed Union High, Graaff Reinet product Damons, the University of North West student tapping in from less than a metre, the Korean defence broken (1-0).

The high-tempo Koreans came back strongly but our defenders Lenise Marais and Kim Hubach were particularly prominent, getting their team out of tight situations with superb tackles.

Captain Marsha Marescia was prominent in a fine spell of play by the green and gold with Pietie Coetzee, Dirkie Chamberlain and Lesle-Ann George testing the Korean defence.

Going into the match, Investec South Africa head coach Giles Bonnet said; “We will be looking to pressure Korea higher in the field to create turnovers which we can exploit. Besides this fundamental strategy we are busy with our internal processes and will be focused on improving our build-up play, on creating enough width in the build-up and managing risk, being aggressive in our attacking style both with and without the ball.”

It was the perfect strategy but the relentless forward motion of the fast-breaking Koreans ensured that they enjoyed the lion’s share of territory, possession, circle entries, penalty corners and chances in this eight-goal thriller.

Vida Ryan had a shot when a pass might have been a better option but recovered with a courageous run to force her country’s first penalty corner, Coetzee’s effort saved by goalkeeper Young Hui Moon – and then umpires Irene Presenqui of Argentina and Wendy Stewart of Canada made a shocking blunder.

The officials missed an obvious foot infringement and Seon Mi Park slotted a penalty stroke that followed (1-1). Apart from the infringement, the shot that led to the stroke appeared to be missing the goals anyway.

Stewart was particularly inept in the sorry saga and it cost South Africa the half-time lead and what might have been a 3-0 lead later in the game.

South Africa had 35 minutes left to earn a berth in the seventh position match but Korea continued in relentless fashion and SA were forced to defend tenaciously until Cindy Botha netted her first World Cup goal after great work by Tarryn Bright, Pietie Coetzee and Sulette Damons (2-1).

Barely a minute later, Botha got her second, this time off the goalkeeper’s pads after a superb circle entry and shot by Marcelle Keet had led to South Africa’s 3-1 lead with the final quarter left. Korea pulled one back with a top-class penalty corner deflection by Bo Mi Kim and then the score stood 3-3 when Seul Ki Cheon slammed in a penalty corner, although it was illegally awarded as the ball was trapped inside the circle.

With nine minutes left Young Ran Kim put Korea ahead for the first time and South Africa’s hopes of a shot at seventh place were dashed unless they restored their lead, but Mi Hyun Park destroyed that dream three minutes from time.

South Africa ended fifth out of the six teams in their pool but still ahead of Spain, who failed to win a match at the tournament and are ranked four places ahead of SA.

Match overview (supplied by World Hockey)
South Africa exceeded their performance at the last two World Cups when they finished 13th (2002) and 12th (2006).

The last time Korea scored at least five goals in a World Cup match was in 2002 when they beat Scotland 6-2.

Sulette Damons opened the score in the second minute of the game. This was South Africa’s fastest World Cup goal since 2002, when Pietie Coetzee scored in the first minute of the game against Russia (4-1).

Cindy Botha scored twice in two minutes to become the first SA player in eight years to score twice in a World Cup match. The last one to do so was Pietie Coetzee in 2002 (vs UKR 3-1).

Five different players scored for Korea in this match.

Korea converted two of six penalty corners awarded today. Before the match they had only converted  only one of 14.


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