South Africa, Wales, Argentina and India registered wins in the first round of classification matches at the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup 2023 at the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium, here on Thursday.
With their wins, South Africa, Wales, Argentina and India head into the 9-12 playoff matches while losses for Malaysia, France, Chile and Japan see them go to the 13-16 playoff matches.
All classification matches will take place on January 28.
South Africa vs Malaysia (6-3)
Malaysia were quicker off the blocks with form man Faizal Saari managing to get a shot in the circle inside the first minute, but South Africa survived that early chance and started to get in the game on counter attacks. They got the first goal through Bradley Sherwood who attacked a cross from the left by Nqobile.
With the impetus now on Malaysia, they tried to press higher up the field, allowing South Africa to play on the counter, which is their preferred style. South Africa won 6 penalty corners in the first half and managed to convert one in the 17th minute as Guy Morgan pounced on the rebound after Eustice’s flick was blocked by the first rusher. They added a 3rd in the 26th minute through Nqobile to cap off a perfect half.
Malaysia got the early goal they desperately needed at the start of the 3rd quarter, with Razie Rahim finding the mark from a penalty corner. South Africa got the next goal of the game as fabulous work by Mvimbi required the easiest of touches from Keenan Horne in front of the goal to restore South Africa’s 3 goal lead.
A minute later, South Africa extended the lead further as Mustapha Cassiem dispatched a penalty stroke won by Mvimbi. With just one second left in the 3rd quarter South Africa conceded a penalty stroke and Rahim scored his second of the game to reduce the deficit back down to 3.
South Africa and Malaysia traded one late goal each as South Africa ran out winners to advance to the 9-12 place playoffs while Malaysia will play in the 12-16 place classification match.
Wales vs France 2-2 (SO: 2-1)
France were the higher ranked team in the match-up, but Wales looked like the more likely team to score early in the game as they committed a bulk of their players into the attack. They were rewarded for their adventurous play as a quick move from the left by James Carson left the French defence exposed and his cross was deftly touched into the goal by Luke Hawker.
France equalised with 6 seconds left in the opening quarter as Draper turned over possession in a dangerous position and van Straaten found Sellier who scored to bring France level. Pieter van Straaten and Sellier connected again quickly after the break to give France the lead, with Sellier getting his second of the game.
Gareth Furlong equalised for Wales, converting on their 4th penalty corner of the game as the teams headed into the break on level terms.
No goals were scored in the third quarter as both teams struggled with clinicality in the opposition circle. France won 2 penalty corners in the 3rd quarter and two more in the final quarter but a combination of sloppy stopping at the top of the circle and captain Victor Charlet’s inability to find the target meant the score stayed level and the teams headed into a shoot-out.
France struggled in the shoot-outs, with Clement the only scorer from their 5 attempts as Reynolds-Cotterill stopped the other 4 French attempts, while Benjamin Francis and Rupert Shipperly scored 2 of the 4 attempts, and that was enough to see them over the line.
Chile vs Argentina (0-8)
Chile started their game against South American rivals Argentina, looking to attack and had two early circle penetrations, but it didn’t lead to shots. Argentina slowly got into the game and started to dominate possession in the Chilean half. Their first goal for Argentina came from Nicolas della Torre through a penalty corner.
The goal seemed to deflate the Chilean team as Argentina started to dominate in attack. Before the half time whistle went, Argentina had added 4 more goals to take a huge 5-goal lead into the break.
Argentina kept up their high press to start the second half and Miaco Casella scored the goal of the game, getting in front of his marker and the Chilean keeper in the circle and deflecting a cross between his legs, with his back to the goal, that nutmegged the keeper and crashed into the goal.
Martin Ferreiro and Tomas Domene added two more goals for Argentina in the final quarter of the game to push the final score to 8-0, earning Argentina a great win after the disappointment of the loss in the crossovers to South Korea.