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Tim Drummond © Gallo Images

Lost chance for SA v Egypt

SA men’s hockey coach Fabian Gregory was uncharacteristically quiet as he faced up to the media after his side’s 2-1 loss to Egypt at the Hockey World League in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Understandably so. His side had run Olympic bronze medallists Germany agonisingly close two days ago, but in a match against the underdogs of the tournament, they simply couldn’t find the back of the net.

The post-match stats made for disappointing reading. Egypt had two shots on goal the entire match and had two goals from them. South Africa had 13 and, according to Gregory, the actual number was probably even higher.

“I actually think it was more than 13 shots on goal with the amount of penalty corners we had. And also you cannot miss open goals like that. We had too many chances at the end of the day,” said the dejected Gregory.

“But credit to the Egyptians. They defended like Trojans, they kept their shape really nice and tight, and we just struggled to exploit them. Even with the chances we had, we didn’t put them away. Their penalty corner defence was really sound so all credit to them. They’re good value and good luck to them.”

The South Africans enjoyed much of the possession and it was against the run of play that Egypt scored their first goal – a strike from Houssam Ghobran in the 29th minute. The home side came right back at them though and scored a matter of seconds later thanks to a deflection that beat the keeper from Daniel Sibbald.

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But it was several defensive errors that led to Egypt’s second – a soft goal again by Ghobran in the 41st minute. Despite applying some intense pressure after that, the Egyptian defence held firm.

“I think we made terrible decisions when we were in our deep defensive zone,” admitted Gregory. “We do well to win the ball on the first phase but on the second phase when we’ve won the ball, we just give easy turnovers and give the ball away too easily and that’s where it counts.”

Speaking about the final five minutes when Egypt had two players off and the South Africans had a kicking back on in place of the keeper to push for the equaliser, Gregory added: “We got a number of goal shots in that time but we didn’t put the ball in the back of the net. It’s a difficult one to swallow in the sense that we had numerical advantage, we had advantage when it came to goal shots, possession, but it only counts when you put the ball in the back of the net.

“We’ll have to have a serious look at ourselves that we’re unable to score those goals when the opportunity presents itself.”

As for the seemingly insurmountable task now of defeating Olympic silver medallists Belgium on Monday in order to make it through to the quarterfinal stage, Gregory remained positive.

“It’s a must-win game for us. We’ll go out there and try our best. We played them in January and we competed really well. It’ll be a nice challenge for the players. They’ve got to pick themselves up after this. We are South Africa – we’re always optimistic so why not?”

SA captain Tim Drummond added: “It’s a tough pill to swallow and it’s very disappointing but we’ve got to pick ourselves up and we’ve got the group to do that. We’ve got Belgium next and we’ve just got to produce some awesomeness against them. We’ve got nothing to lose. We’ll be the underdogs and that’s a dangerous position to be in for the opposition.”

As for Belgium, meanwhile, two sensational saves from German keeper Tobias Walter in the last five seconds of their match saw the Belgians going down 3-2. In other matches played in front of a capacity crowd at the Wits Astro on Saturday, Spain defeated neighbours France 2-0 and Australia defeated New Zealand 2-1.


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