A new era of international hockey began with 8 top teams producing thrilling hockey on the opening day of the inaugural FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup South Africa 2022.
The Nations Cup features the best teams in the world outside of the ones participating in the FIH Hockey Pro League, and their quality was on full display as the lower ranked teams took victories in 3 of the 4 games, with Japan, Ireland and Korea defeating higher ranked Canada, France and Malaysia respectively. Hosts South Africa however ensured there was no upset in their opener, as they put in a spectacular attacking display, scoring 6 goals past a young Pakistan team.
Match 1 – Canada vs Japan 0-3
Japanese coach Akira Takahashi mentioned before the game that his team wouldn’t be afraid to play to their strengths and his team backed up his words with a dominant display in the opening encounter against Canada with a clinical 3-0 win to open their campaign.
Japan started the game on the front foot and opened the scoring through Ken Nagayoshi beating Zachary Coombs on the fifth time of asking from a penalty corner midway through the 2nd quarter. Japan added two more goals from penalty corners on either side of the half-time through Taiki Takade and a second goal for Ken Nagayoshi, ending Canadian hopes of a comeback, taking all 3 points in the first game of the FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup 2022.
Japan’s Kaito Tanaka was awarded the player of the match for a dominant display in the middle of the field. Speaking about the importance of winning the first game, Tanaka said: “It is important to win the first game, but the next two matches are just as important, so our focus is going to shift on the next game right away.”
Match 2 – France vs Ireland 1-2
France came into the FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup South Africa 2022 as one of the prohibitive favorites, but suffered a narrow 2-1 defeat at the hands of continental rivals Ireland, in their campaign opener.
Ireland opened the scoring against the run of play midway through the first quarter, catching France out on a quick counter attack, as John McKee played a perfect pass into the path of Jeremy Duncan, who lifted the ball over the keeper, into the goal. France found a response inside 5 minutes, from a thundering penalty corner goal, scored by Victor Charlet.
Ireland had the chance to go into the break with their lead restored but Arthur Thieffry pulled off a spectacular save from a penalty stroke to keep the teams level.
The second half saw the game start to open up as the teams took turns to launch attacks. Ireland found the breakthrough in the final minute of the 3rd quarter, through a Shane O’Donoghue penalty corner. France continued to probe through the 4th quarter, even taking their keeper off for the final 5 minutes, but Ireland denied them possession for long periods and deservedly took all 3 points.
John McKee who set up the first goal for Ireland was adjudged the player of the match and said: “It was a really good game for us and a massive result in the group. I am looking forward to the next two games and we are not going to get ahead of ourselves.”
Match 3 – Malaysia vs Korea 0-1
Korea drew first blood in the battle of the Asian giants, scoring inside 5 minutes, through a Jonghyun Jang penalty corner and that goal was enough to get all 3 points for Korea.
It was a game of missed chances as Korea and Malaysia both won penalty strokes in the 2nd quarter, but failed to capitalize, as Jang took too long to take a shot attempt and blew an opportunity to double Korea’s lead, while Rahim, who had the chance to pull Malaysia level, put his penalty stroke attempt wide to the right. The second half saw yet another penalty stroke opportunity missed, as Jang’s second chance of the game was deflected on to the post and out by Hafizuddin Othman to keep Malaysia in the game.
As the game went on, Korea became more defensive, and Malaysia couldn’t get anything past Jaehyeon Kim, who had an outstanding performance in the Korean goal. Kim was adjudged the player of the match and said: “Happy with the 3 points, as it’s always good to get a win over Asian rivals Malaysia, because they aren’t an easy team to beat. Looking forward to the upcoming matches in the tournament now.”
Match 4 – South Africa vs Pakistan 6-2
Hosts South Africa gave the home crowd a lot to cheer for, as they produced a fluent attacking performance winning 6-2 against Pakistan, who showed plenty of promise, but were let down by the lack of defensive solidity.
South Africa were clinical from the set pieces, scoring from two penalty corners and a penalty stroke in the first half. Tyson Dlungwana penalty corner opened the scoring for the hosts, and while Pakistan pulled level through Rooman, South Africa were not bogged down and continued to attack, scoring twice in the second quarter to take a comfortable lead into the interval.
The pace of the game remained frantic in the second half as well, with South Africa striking first through a magical deflection by Tevin Kok, with his back to the goal, that snuck in between the keeper’s legs. Skipper Dayaan Cassiem scored South Africa’s 5th goal in the final quarter to seal the win for his team in style. Pakistan pulled a goal back in the final quarter through Arshad Liaqat, but it proved to be little more than a consolation, as South Africa found a 6th goal on the counter to close the game out.
Captain Dayaan Cassiem was awarded the player of the match award for his excellent performance in leading the line for South Africa.
Samkelo Mvimbi, scorer of South Africa’s third goal, said: “It was a great start to the tournament for the team, and good to be involved amongst the goals as well. It’s a great feeling to play at home in front of the supporters and it gives us extra motivation to come out and play with a lot of passion, heart and fire as we are known to do.”
FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup South Africa 2022 – Day 1 (28 November 2022)
Result: Match 1
Canada 0-3 Japan
Player of the Game: Kaito Tanaka
Umpires: Aziz Adimah (GHA), Sébastien Michielsen (BEL), Tim Meissner (GER-reserve), Bevan Nichol (NZL-video)
Result: Match 2
France 1-2 Ireland
Player of the Game: John McKee
Umpires: Gabriel Labate (ARG), Zeke Newman (AUS), Benjamin Peters (USA-reserve), Ayden Shrives (RSA-video)
Result: Match 3
Malaysia 0-1 Korea
Player of the Game: Jaehyeon Kim
Umpires: Bevan Nichol (NZL), Hideki Kinoshita (JPN), Aziz Adimah (GHA-reserve), Sébastien Michielsen (BEL-video)
Result: Match 4
South Africa 6-2 Pakistan
Player of the Game: Dayaan Cassiem
Umpires: Tim Meissner (GER), Nazmi Kamaruddin (MAS), Zeke Newman (AUS-reserve), Benjamin Peters (USA-video)