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SA hockey youngsters have everything to play for
- Updated: December 9, 2013
The South Africa Under-21 men’s hockey team’s agonising 2-1 defeat by Asian champions Malaysia has left the South Africans’ final Pool D match against New Zealand in Delhi on Monday a massive game for both teams, writes Jon Cook.
The FIH reports that both SA and the Malaysian team had narrow wins on the opening day (SA 2 England 1; Malaysia 3 New Zealand 2) and South Africa started their match cautiously, not wanting to risk falling behind early.
Things started to heat up after 10 minutes. South Africa bobbled their first penalty corner but Matt Brown made no mistake on the second one, slotting the ball high out of reach of Hafizuddin Othman in the Malaysian goal.
The Asian champions reacted immediately and besieged the South African circle, calling keeper Rene de la Peyre into action left and right. He stood his ground well but was caught by a deflection after a free-hit was drilled into the circle in the 27th minute. Malaysia had chances to take the lead in the final minutes of the first half but South Africa were kept afloat by De la Peyre, in fine form, and the break was reached on a tied 1-1 score.
After another period of domination, Malaysia took the lead in the 43th minute through Firhan Ashari, turning around at the top of the circle and blasting the ball into the backboard.
Play was fast and entertaining and it was soon the turn of South Africa to be threatening, earning a penalty corner after Ignatius Malgraff cut through the entire Malaysian defence. The corner was upgraded to a penalty stroke but Brown’s attempt was stopped by the keeper, maintaining the narrow Malaysian lead.
South Africa pushed desperately for the elusive equaliser but Malaysia did not break down, and won 2-1 to win Pool D with a game in hand.
Meanwhile, New Zealand and England drew 2-2 and the upshot is that going into Monday’s matches SA, England and the Kiwis have the chance to join Malaysia in the top eight.
All four teams have played two matches in Pool D and have one match left. Malaysia are through to Thursday’s quarter-finals with a game in hand, as they already have a maximum six log points (with a goal difference of two). SA are second with three points (GD 0), New Zealand third (one log point, GD -1 but five goals for) and England fourth (GD -1 but four goals for).
SA will know what has to be done against New Zealand, as they have the advantage of playing after England face Malaysia.
Should England win, SA will probably have to beat New Zealand. If England lose or draw, then a draw against NZ will be good enough for SA to finish second in Pool D and thereby reach the top eight play-offs for the first time ever. For the Kiwis it is a must-win match, no question, although if England beat Malaysia they’ll know they need a win against SA plus the minimum number of goals needed as well as how big the margin of victory must be.
Both the Malaysia vs England and the SA vs New Zealand matches will be live on SuperSport 6, the first match at 2.25pm SA time Monday and the SA match at 4.25pm SA time.
Two South Africans are among the tournament officials in Delhi. Clive McMurray is the umpires’ manager and Peter Wright is an umpire, while the former South African who went to Maritzburg College, Grant Hundley, now of the USA, is also wielding the whistle. South Africa’s Pretoria-based Annelize Rostron officiated with the whistle at the Women’s World League finals won by the Netherlands on Sunday in Tucuman, Argentina.
The Junior World Cup match will be televised live on SuperSport 7 at 4.25pm SA time with a repeat on SS7 at 7.30pm.