SA men’s hockey team bank on history as they take on Argentina in World League quarter-final

2013-07-04 00:00

WITH 15 goals conceded and nine converted, the SA men’s hockey team will be looking to close the gate at one end and find more ways to unlock the door at the other end of the pitch when they take on Pool A winners Argentina in the quarter-finals of the World League tournament in Johor, Malaysia, today.

The match will be televised live on SuperSport 5 and HD2 from 8.45 am (SA time).

At the bottom of Pool B after the preliminary round of the event, world No 12 SA will draw some confidence from the fact that they have traditionally had highly competitive games against world No 10 Argentina.

SA deserved more than the 3-3 draw with world No 4 England in the opening game but cannot say the same for the 6-2 defeat by world No 5 Pakistan in the third and final match in Pool B on Tuesday.

The 6-4 defeat by No13 Malaysia is a match that SA might have a case in saying they should have got more out of the game, but the upshot is that they have a chance to make Saturday’s semi-finals if they beat Argentina.

SA head coach Charlie Pereira said the Pakistan defeat was another disappointment.

“We started the game well, stuck to our plans, had three circle entries and a penalty corner early on,” said Pereira from the team’s hotel yesterday morning.

“But with 11 minutes gone we try and run the ball out of the back, lose possession and even with numbers back we concede a silly goal. That knocks the wind out of our sails and the impact is that we lose the momentum we started the game with.

“Two penalty corners and at half-time Pakistan are 3-1 up. Second half, we pressed really well and created circle entries which we could not convert. We kept Pakistan out of our circle for a continuous period of about 15 minutes until we again tried and ran the ball out of defence and conceded another soft goal. Did Pakistan create their goals? No, we were very generous in not making them work harder for their goals.”

The SA head coach said Argentina would be another stern challenge, “but having played them in Rio [a 4-2 defeat] we are more familiar with their style and if we can cut out the silly mistakes and play to our plan for longer parts of the game, we are in with a shout”.

SA captain Austin Smith reflected on too many unforced errors.

“Poor defensive marking, we didn’t take our chances, had enough to make a game of it. When we create counter-attacks we are far less effective than the opposition,” he said.

Smith said SA need to stick to the game plan for longer periods.

“Argentina, it’s going to be tough to beat this hugely experienced team. Two years ago we beat them for third place at the Champions Challenge so it can be done.

“We have everything to play for in this game so we are preparing as much as we can to try to get a positive result.”

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