The Hague - There was cause for concern in the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team when England led Germany 3-0 in the penultimate Group B match at World Cup 2014 in The Hague, Holland Tuesday.
World number three England needed to beat world six Germany by four clear goals in order to edge SA into the 11th/12th place playoff for final classification in the four-yearly showpiece but the Germans managed to pull a goal back, and the 3-1 final score ensured that the SA girls who are ranked 11th in the world will definitely finish the tournament higher than their world ranking would suggest.
SA will now meet world nine Japan at 10am in the ninth/10th place playoff Friday, the same Japanese who the South Africans were most unfortunate to lose to in the London 2012 Olympics in the same battle for ninth spot.
In their match earlier, SA again won the general statistics count but lost the match in the stat that really counts, goals for and against, in being defeated 4-2 by surprise tournament packages the USA, who are unbeaten and certain of a semi-final berth on Thursday.
Equal goal shots, more penalty corners and similar entries into the scoring zone mattered little in the final analysis as USA punished SA defensive errors.
The thrilling match saw USA go into half-time 1-0 up with Caroline Nichols converting from the penalty spot. SA hit back after the changeover when captain Marsha Cox rounded off a fine counter-attack but the Americans were immediately back in front through Katie Reinprecht following a penalty corner. Then USA skipper Lauren Crandall nailed another goal from the penalty spot for the north Americans to go back in front by a two-goal margin.
SA pulled one back when Lisa Deetlefs slapped in a PC but USA again restored their two-goal advantage 14 minutes from time from a PC that was slotted home by Rachel Dawson for the 4-2 final score.
Meanwhile, the SA men’s side will play for 11th and 12th place - in keeping with their eventual 11th place win over India at London 2012 - in the 1.30pm match Thursday. The SA men will tackle Group A’s sixth-placed Malaysia.
There were some promising moments for the SA men in the second half against World Cup 2014 semi-final qualifiers Argentina, but the south Americans’ superior ability to connect with each other was crucial in their 5-1 win, this after leading 2-0 at the break.
University of Johannesburg student Clint Panther scored a superb individual goal for SA to pull the score back to 3-1 with 13 minutes left but the classy Argentines found another gear to knock in two more goals by the final whistle.
World Cup leading goalscorer Gonzalo Peillat netted a brace, as did Lucas Vila, who scored two breathtaking goals from field play, while Argentina’s other successful strike came from Joaquin Menini.