JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s hopes of advancing to the next stage of the Hockey World Cup in India will depend on their result against Belgium and on that of the other Pool-C match tomorrow (1.30pm).
The Proteas made a dreadful start to the tournament when they suffered a 5-0 defeat to India but produced a plucky performance against Canada over the weekend.
While they showed some grit in the match, the 1-1 draw made their chances of reaching the crossover round and thereafter the quarter-finals, decidedly more difficult.
They could easily have won the match, and it certainly looked like they would when they took the lead in the 43rd minute courtesy of Nqobile Ntuli.
But they were left dejected when Canada equalised just two minutes later to force the stalemate.
South Africa were the better side on the day, but this will be of little comfort as Canada’s superior goal difference from their 2-1 victory over Belgium, has left the Proteas in third place on their group table.
They ended the Canadian clash with 24 circle penetrations, 12 shots at goal and seven penalty goals with only one goal to show for it.
The team will still be going into their Belgium clash confident of their ability to create opportunities but will have to find a way of turning them into points.
Thereafter, the Proteas will be throwing their support behind India in their match against Canada where runaway victory could aid South Africa in their pursuit of reaching the crossover round. Canada has a -1 goal difference, while South Africa have -5.
South Africa will also have to be at their best against world No 3 Belgium, who played out a 1-1 draw with India over the weekend.
The Proteas finished 11th at the previous edition in The Netherlands where they suffered four defeats, conceding 21 goals, while they managed a goalless draw against South Korea.
They beat Malaysia 6-2 in the 11th/12th-place play-off match to avoid the wooden spoon.
This is South Africa’s sixth appearance at the World Cup and they are hoping to improve on their previous best 10th-place finishes from 2010 and 1994.@ockertde