Giles Bonnet, head coach of the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team, is under no illusions as to the task facing his players when they take on Italy at the Olympic Qualifier Tournament in New Delhi, India at 8.30 am (SA time) Tuesday.
“In Alessia Padalino they have a very good striker who got a hat-trick in Italy’s 4-1 win over Poland on Sunday while there are other players we will have to keep an eye on as well,” said the SA mentor.
The Italians are a very focused side who were unfortunate in coming on the wrong side of some crucial umpiring decisions in their 2-2 draw with Canada on day one. On another day they would have stashed away three points instead of one and be level on six points with the South Africans.
SA are the only side with full points after two matches while Italy and India are on four with Ukraine on one point and Poland none.
With three matches left, including Wednesday’s round, there is precious little time for any team to recover from a slip-up. Both Italy and SA will be ultra-keen to win this one, which is shaping up to be one of the pivotal matches of the tournament.
Bonnet said that several of his Olympians, including defenders Kate Woods (Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008) and Lenise Marais (Beijing 2008) had played important roles in the side’s 2-1 win over Poland and Sunday’s 2-0 defeat of Ukraine.
He will be looking to the defensive duo as well as the other half-dozen Olympians in the line-up to pilot the less experienced players through the edgy moments that will inevitably surface against coach Fernando Ferrara’s determined Italians.
In Wednesday’s other matches, Canada face Ukraine and Poland tackle India. – Supplied