Dec 15, 2023

FIH Junior World Cup 2023 | Tenth place finish for the SA Hockey Men

South Africa met with European heavyweights Belgium to contest 9th position and conclude their 2023 FIH Junior World Cup in Malaysia. The South Africans, who tested finalists Germany and France in the group stages had been fantastic in the 9-16 bracket.

The opening quarter saw Belgium have a chance which was easily saved by Reece Govender while another marauding run and deflection from South Africa top goal scorer Hans Neethling was effectively saved from the Belgians as the two teams cancelled each other out.

Belgium tested Govender in the second quarter again, but he passed with flying colors before the Europeans won a penalty corner. South Africa’s first wave runners were too quick, again and the danger was averted. Belgium was looking the more dangerous of the two teams, but South Africa still looked dangerous when they came forward. Unfortunately for the South Africans the weight of pressure would tell with tournament top goal scorer Hugo Labuschere netting for the Belgians just four minutes before half-time. They would get a second before the break when De Bakke played the ball quickly and fired into the bottom corner, South Africa would refer as the free hit was taken away from the infringement, but the video umpire felt it was close enough. 2-0 at the half-time break.

South Africa had a couple of penalty corners early in the second half. The South Africans pulled a goal back through the exciting youngster Jayden Brooker to make it 2-1. The lifeline spurred on the South Africans and Neethling created an opportunity while David Tshebi also asked a question of the opposing keeper, a late yellow card for Neuhoff meant South Africa would start the final quarter a player short.

Belgium won a penalty stroke four minutes into the final quarter when Virissimo saved with the back stick, but South Africa breathed a sigh of relief as the stroke was fired far wide. Belgium then had a yellow card with nine minutes remaining to give South Africa a massive opportunity. Caleb Oliphant picked up the ball just inside the circle and his shot on the bounce went agonizingly wide.

Belgium was the team dictating the possession while the African champions continued to search for parity. South Africa won a penalty corner with 3 minutes remaining which was immediately referred by the Belgians to add to the tension, the penalty corner was upheld. Jaydon Brookers chance from the penalty corner hit the inside angle of the upright and the ball somehow flew across the face of goal and out.

The final two minutes though were without moments but there was no adding to the score and the Belgians would secure 9th place with a 2-1 victory against the Africans. A proud tournament for the South Africans ending with a tight defeat in Malaysia and a tenth-place finish.

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