SA come close against Olympic champs
The Investec South Africa women's hockey team went down to Holland 4-2 in a penalty shootout after the scores were 2-2 at fulltime in the semifinals of the Investec London Cup in Chiswick on Saturday afternoon.
SA came agonisingly close to upsetting the Olympic Games champions for the first time in their history. The nearest SA have come to beating the world hockey giants was a 5-5 draw in 2004.
“We didn’t pitch up in the first half and were very slow out the blocks,” said SA assistant coach Fabian Gregory.
“Once we were 2-0 down we started playing and the girls gave a great account of themselves, putting the Dutch under immense pressure high in the field, while our defence was exceptional in the second half, but we owe it to ourselves to put together a 70-minute performance of the quality of that second half when we play in the bronze-medal match.”
Gregory sounded a warning to SA’s Olympic Games opponents. “We are not going to London 2012 to make up the numbers and we showed against the Olympic champions there is no reason why we can’t beat the best in the world.
"But it was as if we said, ‘let’s give the Dutch two goals and then we will show what we can do’.”
SA captain Marsha Marescia said the penalty shootout is a pressure situation that the team do train for. “It just didn’t work out for us today,” the outstanding midfielder said.
Two brilliant strikes by world-record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee, which took her tally to 240 goals in 244 test matches, brought SA so close after a slow start, and a pivotal moment was a stunning stick-save low to her right by Holland goalkeeper Floortje Engels following a Coetzee rocket drag-flick in the 47th minute.
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That save won the match for Holland, who scored twice in the first 12 minutes through Kelly Jonker and Maartje Paumen.
SA had started very slowly but with Marescia having a superb game, the women in green and gold rallied and Coetzee weaved her way across the top of the Dutch defensive third before hitting a reverse-stick shot into the far corner three minutes from halftime.
Coetzee made it 2-2 with 15 minutes left in the match after Tarryn Bright had earned a PC and the superstar's drag-flick went whizzing past Engels in goal.
The teams matched each other in the first two rounds of the penalty shootout – which entails an attacker having eight seconds to score in a one-on-one against the goalkeeper – but Holland edged ahead to win the best-of-five shootout 4-2 with one round left.
World No 7 Australia beat No 3 Germany 3-2 in the second semifinal on Saturday..
The bronze medal match between SA and Germany will be live on Sunday on SuperSport 6 at 2.15pm CAT (SA, GMT+2), with the gold medal match between Holland and Australia at 5pm on the same channel.