The drumbeats in Rosario sounded out world number two and host country Argentina’s 5-2 victory over Investec South Africa on Monday, day one of the BDO FIH World Cup hockey tournament for women.
SA Hockey World’s Jonathan Cook reports that five-time World Hockey Player of the Year Luciana Aymar stole the show with a sublime hat-trick in a Pool B match where the scores were locked 1-1 at half-time.
Noel Barrionuevo and Marine Russo also found the net for Las Leonas (the lionesses) with strikers Pietie Coetzee, starved of ball up front, and Vida Ryan narrowing the margin for SA.
Goalkeeper Mariette Rix had SA in contention with a series of fine saves but Barrionuevo opened the scoring midway through the first half, Argentina attacking in waves. However, SA did manage to steal away occasionally and debutant Sulette Damons was inches close to deflecting in the equaliser.
The pace and accuracy of Las Leonas overwhelmed world No12 South Africa at times, yet Lisa Deetlefs, Lenise Marais, Kim Hubach and Marcelle Keet showed proof as to why they deserve to be on the international stage.
With Argentina’s first touch markedly better, Rix continued to make superb saves but the girls in green and gold finally found Coetzee and she immediately earned a penalty corner. The combination between captain Marsha Marescia, Lenise Marais and Coetzee saw the Southern Gauteng star almost cut goalkeeper Belen Succi in half and SA had drawn level.
Shelley Russell and Coetzee had more opportunities for SA but it was the near-untouchable Aymar who continued to eliminate defenders and a left-right diagonal run made it 3-1 before Claudia Burkart smashed a reverse stick shot into the crossbar.
Aymar scored again, her seamless running with the ball and ability to connect with team-mates running into space, allied with superior technical skills, proving to be a potent cocktail, leaving little room for SA to manoeuvre.
A Marescia shot earned a penalty corner and although the initial set-piece play was bungled, forward Vida Ryan latched on to the loose ball and lashed in a goal that hit the top corner. But 4-2 turned to 5-2 soon after when Aymar used her long reach to beat three or four players before setting up Marine Russo.
Next up, Investec South Africa meet Spain at 10 pm (SA time) on Tuesday. The match is live on SuperSport 2 with repeats later.
In other Pool B results, world number 11 South Korea upset world number three and Beijing Olympic Games silver medallists China 2-1, while sixth-ranked England beat world number eight Spain 3-2.
The Pool A matches involving defending champions The Netherlands, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and India take place on Monday.
INVESTEC SOUTH AFRICA TEAM
Mariette Rix, Marsha Marescia (capt), Shelley Russell, Marcelle Keet, Dirkie Chamberlain, Lisa Deetlefs, Kelly Madsen, Pietie Coetzee, Jen Wilson, Lesle-Ann George, Vida Ryan, Lenise Marais, Kathleen Taylor, Cindy Botha, Hanli Hattingh, Kim Hubach, Tarryn Bright, Sulette Damons.