SA hockey women eye London semis
7 June 2012
Despite a 1-0 loss to world number three Germany in their second game of the Investec London Cup, the South African women's hockey team is all but assured of a place in the semi-finals, thanks to their 3-1 victory over world number four Great Britain in their first match.
For the British to make the semi-finals, they have to beat Germany by two clear goals when the teams meet on Thursday evening. However, if Great Britain manages to do that, the Germans would be out.
Another option for the hosts is to win by at least a goal while scoring four or more goals. A seven-goal thriller, while not impossible, is unlikely.
In Wednesday evening's clash with the Germans, South Africa, ranked twelfth in the world, showed impressive composure and the defence dealt well with the Europeans' offensive forays.
Up front, Sulette Damons shone once more, and her pace proved to be a problem for the German defenders.
However, despite a strong showing by Damons and her attacking counterparts, South Africa failed to find the back of the net as goalkeeper Kristina Reynolds played a blinder to deny Kate Woods, Dirkie Chamberlain, Marsha Marescia and Pietie Coetzee.
The contest was decided by a goal in the 30th minute, scored by attack Eileen Hoffman with a deflected shot after a counter-attack from deep inside the German half.
Towards the end of the game, South Africa put Germany under heavy pressure as they sought a winner, but the Germans held out for the victory.
Germany's coach Michael Behrmann said afterwards on the tournament website: "We have had three weeks off coming into this tournament and that showed at times today. However, we won our first match and that is really important on the way to London ."
South African Assistant Coach Fabian Gregory commented: "After the high of yesterday [when South Africa beat Great Britain 3-1] it was a bit tough today, but I think the girls can be extremely proud, and I'm excited about the progress we have made."
Recent matches suggest that the South African team's busy schedule in the build-up to the 2012 London Olympic Games has borne dividends.
Tactically, they may, at times, find themselves a little under the cosh from the top teams in the world, and that can result in the failure to maintain possession as well as the team could and should.
However, they are dangerous on the counter-attack and, very importantly, the South Africans don't appear to be short of confidence when up against the world's leading sides.
Earlier on Wednesday, Australia beat Ireland 4-1 to bounce back after a 2-1 defeat to world number one The Netherlands on Tuesday.
The Dutch and the Irish will meet on Thursday evening.
The semi-finals take place on Saturday, with the top two teams from the three-team pools advancing to the semi-finals.
The winners will compete for the Investec London Cup title, while the two losers will play off for the bronze medals. Fifth and sixth places will be decided between the two countries that finish bottom of their respective pools.
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