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Memorable day for SA hockey at World Cup
- Updated: June 7, 2014
South African hockey went into the weekend with high fives the order of the day after two fine performances by both the men’s and women’s sides at the World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands.
Bubbling with confidence from the outset, the Investec national women’s team beat world No3 side England in a memorable 4-1 victory on Friday.
And a few hours later the men’s side had a hard-fought 0-0 draw against seventh ranked South Korea.
Skipper Marsha Cox’s girls had too many options for world number three England and led 2-0 at half-time, reports Jon Cook.
Ranked 11th in the world, SA scored four outstanding goals from open play, the first going to Kathleen Taylor in the 17th minute, the second an exquisite strike by Sulette Damons, in her 150th match, three minutes from half-time (32nd) and after the changeover it was a Shelley Russell stunner (40th) followed by the fourth strike off the stick of Dirkie Chamberlain (52nd). England scored a consolation goal through Nicola White in the 55th.
ÔÇ£We worked hard for this result, I am pleased but not surprised by the outcome,ÔÇØ said SA Marsha Cox, who led by example throughout an entertaining 70 minutes.
ÔÇ£We started the tournament shakily but had put a lot of focus on this game even before the World Cup, against an England side that have always given us a tough battle.ÔÇØ
Assistant coach Kurt Cerfontyne said that after two defeats this match was the crossroads of the tournament for SA. ÔÇ£The result was non-negotiable and we have asked the girls to enjoy the moment but keep their feet on the ground as there are still two [Group B] matches to come.ÔÇØ
SA now have a fighting chance of leapfrogging the Chinese and Germans to finish third in the Group and with it a shot at an unprecedented fifth place.
Cox said the team would re-focus for world No7 China (5.30pm Sunday), which precedes their final Group B match versus high-riding world No10 the USA (2.30pm Tuesday). ÔÇ£China are fast, technically good so it’s going to be an extremely tough game for us.ÔÇØ
England head coach Jason Lee said his team’s confidence dropped after they hit the post and didn’t score early in the match, while he was also disappointed in the manner in which the English conceded the four goals.
The South Africans’ win is particularly meritorious as the world’s third-ranked England, as Great Britain, won the London 2012 Olympics bronze medal. Eight of those players were in Friday’s line-up. England’s success continued in 2013 with silver at the European Cup and bronze in the World league Finals just under six months’ ago.
But they ran into an SA team that were in top form as a unit ÔÇô and through the defence, midfield and forward lines. And particularly memorable was that every single team member played her part.
Hard on the heels of the women’s win it was the South Africa men’s turn to defy the odds in a 0-0 draw with world No7 South Korea.
Perhaps the ÔÇ£B fieldÔÇØ, the 5000-seater Greenfields Stadium, is where SA should be permanently fixtured and for the SA men it was a gutsy performance mixed with no little skill as they dominated South Korea ÔÇô including a spell in the dying minutes in which the lads in green and gold won three consecutive penalty corners that somehow stayed the wrong side of the Korean goalline.
All three lines, from defence to midfield to attack ÔÇô as well as keeper Rassie Pieterse ÔÇô were outstanding for SA in a clash that became increasingly nasty as Korean frustrations wore on.
At one point the African champions, already without striker Ignatius Malgraff who was forced to sit out the match, were two men short but these setbacks did nothing to stem the fire within.
World No12 SA dominated territory, possession, the PC count as well as chances from open play being more or less even, but Korea keeper Myungho Lee was in brilliant form, pulling off a number of near-miraculous saves.
Now it’s the big one against one of hockey’s heavyweights, host nation Holland, in front of a screaming, chanting, flag-waving 15-000 capacity Kyocera Stadium at 7.45pm on Sunday.
But SA can take much heart from Friday’s performance into that marquee match.
Picture: Stanislas Brochier