Having restricted World No 5 Belgium to just a 2-1 lead going into the final quarter, South Africa will burn with regret that they let their opening Women’s Hockey World Cup match slip and lost 4-1 at the weekend, making Tuesday’s clash against Japan vital if they are to make the quarterfinals.
A wonderful defensive effort by the 15th-ranked South Africans saw them keep Belgium scoreless in the first 15 minutes, repelling 13 circle entries, seven penalty corners and seven shots at goal. But Belgium eventually broke through in the second quarter, with two penalty corner goals in a minute scored by Stephanie van den Borre.
But the setback did not douse the flame of returning coach Giles Bonnet’s team, and they fought back to dominate the closing stages of the first half, pulling the score back to 2-1 as debutant Jean-Leigh du Toit fired into goal from a short corner.
That gave them some momentum and belief, and the teams slogged out a goal-less, tight third quarter, South Africa being unable to convert from two penalty corners.
Unfortunately for the South Africans, it was the Europeans who took the game by the scruff of the neck in the final quarter and they were at their most dominant, winning seven penalty corners and creating 17 shots at goal. Charlotte Engelbert was open on the back post at a short corner and she finished easily, before adding her second goal when she reacted first from a save by goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande and fired into the bottom-left corner.
Playing with hope
“We are in a very tough pool, but there’s always a surprise result in these tournaments and we hoped it would be us,” Bonnet said.
Having opened their campaign with a defeat, the South Africans play Japan on Tuesday at 6pm. Japan lost 2-0 to Australia in their opening match, so both teams will be desperate for a win to qualify for the quarterfinal crossover phase of the tournament, which is being staged in Spain and the Netherlands.