Day 2 of the FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup South Africa 2022 saw a plethora of attacking displays as all teams managed to get themselves on the scoresheet. But it was joy for some and despair for others as the semifinals picture started to take shape as the day progressed. Korea, Ireland and South Africa made it two wins in two matches, and qualified for the semi-finals, with one pool match still to go. Meanwhile Pakistan, Canada and France can no longer qualify after taking no points from the first two games.
Malaysian hopes of qualification stay alive after their come-from-behind victory over Canada set up a final pool match showdown against Japan, where a win for Malaysia will see them join Korea as semi-finalists from Pool B, while a draw will be enough for Japan, given their superior goal difference.
All teams will be back in action on 1 December after a rest day tomorrow.
Match 1 – Korea vs Japan 3-1
Japan came racing off the blocks in the battle between two Asian rivals, but a combination of poor finishing and excellent keeping from Jehyeon Kim kept Korea in the game; who then made Japan pay for the missed opportunities by scoring on either side of the first quarter break through Jonghyun Jang and Sunghyun Kim. Japan pulled one back before the half as a speculative shot by Takuma Niwa snuck through the legs of Jehyeon Kim.
The pace of the game slowed down significantly in the 3rd quarter, with both teams prodding, without committing too many to attack. Japan conceded a penalty corner with one second left in the third quarter, and Korea snatched the opportunity with a perfect top corner flick by Jonghyun Jang again.
Jang was awarded the player of the match for his two brilliant goals, that proved to be the difference between the two sides, and said: “Yesterday’s win was important, but today’s was even more so, because Japan are a tough side and they were coming off a win themselves. I am happy to have converted two penalty corners and I look forward to the next game.”
Match 2 – Ireland vs Pakistan 3-1
Ireland came into the game as heavy favorites after their impressive win against France yesterday, while Pakistan had suffered a heavy defeat against South Africa, but the first quarter proved how close all teams at the FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup 2022 are, with neither team giving an edge. Pakistan opened the scoring through a smart finish by Abdul Shahid at the start of the 2nd quarter, but Ireland struck back almost instantly via Conor Empey.
Both teams looked for attacking opportunities in the second half, but Pakistan could not make theirs count, while Ireland added two goals; the first, a beautiful team move with intricate passing that was knocked into an empty goal by Benjamin Walker, and a second via a Shane O’Donoghue penalty corner. The two second half goals were enough for Ireland to see the game out and make it 6 points from 2 matches so far.
Benjamin Walker, who has been on the scoresheet for Ireland in both their games, was awarded the player of the match. Speaking of the win today and the upcoming challenges he said: “The win yesterday was great but it took a lot out of us, so it was good to be able to comeback from the early deficit and get three goals and the win. South Africa next after a rest tomorrow and that will be a tough game too. We saw them play against Pakistan and they look very good.”
Match 3 – Canada vs Malaysia 2-3
Through most of the game Malaysia looked like they were going to be on the losing end of yet another frustrating encounter, where they had plenty of chances, but couldn’t find a way to get the final shot. But a 4th quarter surge reversed their fortunes and earned them 3 crucial points, which makes their next encounter against Japan, where a victory will see them qualify for the semi-finals.
Canada took the lead in the game twice, but the Malaysian attack kept pressing on, despite failing to find a final touch on multiple occasions. With just 15 minutes to go in the game and Malaysia trailing by a goal, Canada’s Matthew Sarmento picked up a 10-minute suspension that handed Malaysia the impetus, and they capitalized on the player advantage through an Abu Azrai goal, leveling the score. Azrai then found himself in the right spot once again in the 57th minute of the game, as his shot deflected off a Canadian stick and looped over the keeper and into the goal to earn Malaysia a huge win.
Abu Azrai was awarded the player of the match for his two crucial goals, and said: “It feels good to overcome the adversity of going a goal down twice and to comeback and win the game in the final quarter. Canada were really impressive today, but we needed the three points and we got them, so it’s job done for us today.”
Match 4 – South Africa vs France 2-1
South Africa and France produced attacking masterclasses when they faced off in the FIH Hockey Pro League earlier in the year and it was no different today as the two teams went head-to-head in the Nations Cup.
Corentin Sellier opened the scoring for France in the 12th minute with a brilliant move inside the circle to make room for himself and bury a shot into the roof of the net. South Africa answered back within a minute as a pinpoint long range pass by Ryan Julius found Tevin Kok, whose brilliant first touch allowed him to put the ball past the onrushing French keeper to level things up.
Dayaan Cassiem has been the heart and soul of the South African team and showed once again why he is so highly regarded as his brilliant 3d skills cracked the French defense open in the 4th quarter and Keenan Horne had an easy tap-in to give South Africa a well-deserved lead. South Africa continued to play attacking hockey despite the lead, while their defense stood firm and repelled all French attacks, earning them a win and confirming their spot in the semi-finals, with a game still to play in the pool stage, against Ireland.
Tevin Kok, who had another stellar performance in attack, after mesmerizing fans with his performance against Pakistan yesterday, was awarded the player of the match and took a moment to appreciate his team’s defense, saying: “The team played really good defense today as a unit to keep France at bay, especially late in the game as they tried to look for a goal. Very happy to have qualified, but our aim is to win the event, and that is what we are looking forward to.”
FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup South Africa 2022 – Day 2 (29 November 2022)
Result: Match 1
Korea 3-1 Japan
Player of the Game: Jonghyun Jang (KOR)
Umpires: Gabriel Labate (ARG), Nazmi Kamaruddin (MAS), Zeke Newman (AUS-reserve), Aziz Adimah (GHA-video)
Result: Match 2
Ireland 3-1 Pakistan
Player of the Game: Benjamin Walker (IRL)
Umpires: Ayden Shrives (RSA), Sébastien Michielsen (BEL), Bevan Nichol (NZL-reserve), Zeke Newman (AUS-video)
Result: Match 3
Canada 2-3 Malaysia
Player of the Game: Abu Azrai (MAS)
Umpires: Tim Meissner (GER), Hideki Kinoshita (JPN), Aziz Adimah (GHA-reserve), Gabriel Labate (ARG-video)
Result: Match 4
South Africa 2-1 France
Player of the Game: Tevin Kok (RSA)
Umpires: Benjamin Peters (USA) Bevan Nichol (NZL), Sébastien Michielsen (BEL-reserve), Nazmi Kamaruddin (MAS-video)