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Hockey girls qualify

A fired-up Investec South Africa women’s hockey team are on their way to the Olympic Games in London after beating India 3-1in the final of the Olympic Qualifier Tournament at New Delhi’s National Stadium on Saturday.

South Africa’s Shelley Russell scored in the first half with Pietie Coetzee and Player of the Tournament Marsha Marescia getting second half goals. Jaspreet Kaur replied towards the end for India.

SA are now the 10th of 12 teams to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

For India it was their first chance to reach an Olympic Games since 1980 while SA were attempting to qualify for their fourth in a row.

In the third minute SA left-side midfielder Russell pounced on a ball drifting invitingly across the strike zone, beat a defender and slipped the ball past goalkeeper Yogita Bali (1-0).

There were turnovers aplenty as play drifted back and forth for 10 minutes before Rani Rampal brought a save from keeper Mariette Rix in the 16th minute.

Then SA captain Marescia made an important tackle on the Indian sharpshooter as she attempted to enter the scoring zone five minutes later.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿In the 23rd minute Coetzee was body checked in the 23-metre area and umpire Soledad Iparraguirre of Argentina awarded SA’s first PC, which was not well executed.

Tensions were high and mistakes were many but Russell’s skill won SA’s second PC with seven minutes left to the break. Coetzee’s drag-flick flew over the crossbar. SA won a third PC soon after and the world record goalscorer went low past the keeper for her 233rd goal in 238 Test matches.

Trailing 1-0, India started the second half strongly and double Olympians Kate Woods and Marescia (Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008) made several vital tackles and interventions before SA won their fourth PC, which Bali saved from Coetzee. At the other end Devi Thokchom could have made more of two chances in quick succession, the second a straight one-on-one which Rix kept out.

With 19 minutes left Sulette Damons made ground and strike partner Coetzee saw her effort bobble against the post but the fifth PC followed and Coetzee’s flick found Marescia’s outstretched stick for the deflection into the net (3-0).

India hit back immediately and Jaspreet Kaur made certain with her team’s second PC, the ball slamming into the backboard (3-1) but it was never going to be enough.

Bonnet has been in charge for 20 months and in that time almost 100 Test matches have been played, several overseas tours undertaken and home series undergone, plus the countless hours of training, planning, video sessions and more. All to earn entry into the London 2012 Olympic Games in five months’ time. Well done South Africa.

Indian hockey shot themselves in the foot by tripling the ticket prices, which induced many to stay away and watch on TV.

While the crowd was magnificent in their support, a stadium at capacity would have surely been worth a goal or so.

Final classification matches: (1/2) SA 3 India 1; (3/4) Italy 2 Ukraine 1; (5/6) Canada 3 Poland 0.