Junior World Cup hockey finals: South African U21 men disappoint

2009-06-24 00:00

THE South African U21 men’s hockey team ended 15th out of the 20 countries that qualified for the Junior World Cup finals in Malaysia and Singapore.

SA shaded England in the 15/16 classification match in a World Cup won 3-1 by Germany over the Netherlands.

SA captain Dom Scott’s side kicked off their preliminary round in Singapore, where they played their opening game against Japan and drew 1-1.

SA were then hammered 4-0 by Germany before beating Chile 6-1. A big game against eventual bronze medallists Australia saw SA go down 2-0.

Coach Kurt Cerfontyne’s SA side were out of contention for a medal, but position five onwards was still a possibility.

However, the second round in Johore, Malaysia, proved their undoing. Egypt went one better after SA beat them in the Africa Cup final last year by drawing 2-2. Next up were Malaysia and this was arguably South Africa’s most galling defeat as the kamikaze-like defence of the desperate home country saw a 1-1 score at halfway turned into a 3-1 victory for the hosts.

Back to Singapore two days later and SA lost a crucial match to Poland, going down 5-4 after trailing 3-2 at half-time.

This defeat effectively consigned SA to a final classification match for 15th place out of the 20 countries and they scraped home 6-5 against England in a penalty stroke shootout after the scores ended 2-2 at full-time.

After much expectation, 15th place out of 20 was a big disappointment for Scott’s men, but the unforgiving nature of tournament hockey sees a loss here or there making the difference between playing for a position as much as four places higher up the ladder.

A common theme was South Africa’s inability to translate superior territory and possession into field goals.

This can be traced back to a domestic season that simply doesn’t provide the edge that tough matches give top teams like Germany and the Netherlands week in and week out.

However, there was achievement in highly rated Pietermaritzburg umpire Ayden Shrives, among a host of players in the SA contingent who learnt their hockey in the midlands, officiating in the semi-finals.

Final placings: 1. Germany; 2. Netherlands; 3. Australia; 4. New Zealand; 5. Pakistan; 6. Argentina; 7. Korea; 8. Spain; 9. India; 10. Poland; 11. Belgium; 12. Malaysia; 13. Japan; 14. Egypt; 15. South Africa; 16. England; 17. Chile; 18. Russia; 19. Singapore; 20. USA.

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