It was a case of mission accomplished for the Investec South African women’s hockey team when they booked their place in Saturday’s Africa Cup of Nations final by beating minnows Tanzania 25-0 in Nairobi on Thursday, after leading 13-0 at half-time.
Jon Cook reports from Nairobi, that captain Marcelle Keet’s side will play Ghana, 3-2 winners over host nation Kenya in the last match in the league phase of the event, in Saturday’s 12 noon (SA time) final.
Moving the ball left and right, drawing defenders out of position and slipping passes into the pocket, SA unlocked the packed Tanzanian defence with ease and scored goals through Kelly Madsen, Celia Evans (2), Shelley Russell (2), Sulette Damons (4), Bernie Coston (3), Lilian du Plessis (8), Lisa Deetlefs, Tanya Britz (2) and Quanita Bobbs (2). Tanzania goalkeeper Flora Simbamkole was under constant pressure but had the consolation of knowing that she kept out as many as those goals that were scored.
Nine players getting onto the scoresheet was a pleasing aspect of the South Africans’ performance. Striker Jade Mayne was rested because of a knee niggle but will be fit for the final.
SA scored from nine of their 12 penalty corners, through Deetlefs, Du Plessis (6), Russell and Coston, a fact that pleased head coach Fabian Gregory. ÔÇ£Our percentage was much, much better,ÔÇØ Gregory said. SA scored one of 16 corners in the 1-1 draw with Ghana on Wednesday.
ÔÇ£The girls worked exceptionally hard in training on Wednesday at turning that stat around, so all credit to the corner team,ÔÇØ said Gregory.
ÔÇ£Our build-up play down the right-hand side was the standout for me,ÔÇØ said the coach. ÔÇ£Shelley Russell at right midfield, Bernie utilising her pace to go around the defence, and then Ilse Davids providing the variant with the type of ball that she plays on the inside.
ÔÇ£Our midfielders were a lot more direct, so in all I am pleased with that aspect but there is still a bit of work to do to bring the left-hand side up to the same level, where we were not as direct as I would have liked us to be.ÔÇØ
Tanzania, whose women’s hockey was resurrected recently by the arrival of their Italian coach, Valentina Quaranta, had conceded 31 goals going into the match (1-13 versus Kenya and 0-18 versus Ghana) and SA had the indirect aim of bettering those scorelines, which has now given the defending champions the psychological advantage going into the gold medal match, which will see either the girls in green and gold or Ghana booking a ticket to the 2014 World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands at the end of May.
SA results to date: SA 3 Kenya 1; SA 1 Ghana 1; SA 25 Tanzania 0.
Other results: Ghana 18 Tanzania 0; Kenya 13 Tanzania 1; Ghana 3 Kenya 2.