On day 2 of FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup South Africa 2022, there were plethora of attacking displays as all teams managed to get themselves on the scoresheet. It was joy for some and despair for others as the semifinals picture started to take shape. Korea, Ireland and South Africa made it two wins in two matches, and qualified for the semi-finals, with one pool match still to go. Meanwhile Pakistan, Canada and France can no longer qualify after taking no points from the first two games.
The FIH Hockey Nations Cup features the best eight teams (by world rankings) that are not a part of the FIH Hockey Pro League, in both men’s and women’s competitions. The eight teams are split into two pools of four teams each, with the top two teams in each pool proceeding to the semi-finals and beyond. The first placed team in the FIH Hockey Nations Cup will replace the bottom placed team in the FIH Hockey Pro League in the subsequent year.
Malaysian hopes of qualification stay alive after their come-from-behind victory over Canada set up a final pool match showdown against Japan. A win for Malaysia will see them join Korea as semi-finalists from Pool B, while a draw will be enough for Japan, given their superior goal difference.
All teams will be back in action on 1 December after a rest day.
Match 1 - Korea vs Japan 3-1
Japan came racing off the blocks in the battle between two Asian rivals, but a combination of poor finishing and excellent keeping from Jehyeon Kim kept Korea in the game. They made Japan pay for the missed opportunities by scoring on either side of the first quarter break through Jonghyun Jang and Sunghyun Kim. Japan pulled one back before the half as a speculative shot by Takuma Niwa snuck through the legs of Jehyeon Kim.
The pace of the game slowed down significantly in the 3rd quarter, with both teams prodding, without committing too many to attack. Japan conceded a penalty corner with one second left in the third quarter, and Korea snatched the opportunity with a perfect top corner flick by Jonghyun Jang again.
Jang was awarded the player of the match for his two brilliant goals, that proved to be the difference between the two sides.
Match 2 - Ireland vs Pakistan 3-1
Ireland came into the game as heavy favourites after their impressive win against France yesterday, while Pakistan had suffered a heavy defeat against South Africa. But the first quarter proved how close all teams at the FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup 2022 are, with neither team giving an edge. Pakistan opened the scoring through a smart finish by Abdul Shahid at the start of the 2nd quarter, but Ireland struck back almost instantly via Conor Empey.
Both teams looked for attacking opportunities in the second half, but Pakistan could not make theirs count, while Ireland added two goals; the first, a beautiful team move with intricate passing that was knocked into an empty goal by Benjamin Walker, and a second via a Shane O’Donoghue penalty corner. The two second half goals were enough for Ireland to see the game out and make it 6 points from 2 matches so far.
Benjamin Walker, who has been on the scoresheet for Ireland in both their games, was awarded the player of the match.
Match 3 - Canada vs Malaysia 2-3
Through most of the game Malaysia looked like they were going to be on the losing end of yet another frustrating encounter, where they had plenty of chances, but couldn’t find a way to get the final shot. But a 4th quarter surge reversed their fortunes and earned them 3 crucial points, which makes their next encounter against Japan crucial, where a victory will see them qualify for the semi-finals.
Canada took the lead in the game twice, but the Malaysian attack kept pressing on, despite failing to find a final touch on multiple occasions. With just 15 minutes to go in the game and Malaysia trailing by a goal, Canada’s Matthew Sarmento picked up a 10-minute suspension that handed Malaysia the impetus, and they capitalized on the player advantage through an Abu Azrai goal, leveling the score. Azrai then found himself in the right spot once again in the 57th minute of the game, as his shot deflected off a Canadian stick and looped over the keeper and into the goal to earn Malaysia a huge win.
Abu Azrai was awarded the player of the match for his two crucial goals.
Match 4 - South Africa vs France 2-1
South Africa and France produced attacking displays when they faced off in the FIH Hockey Pro League earlier in the year and it was no different today as the two teams went head-to-head in the Nations Cup.
Corentin Sellier opened the scoring for France in the 12th minute with a brilliant move inside the circle to make room for himself and bury a shot into the roof of the net. South Africa answered back within a minute as a pinpoint long range pass by Ryan Julius found Tevin Kok, whose brilliant first touch allowed him to put the ball past the onrushing French keeper to level things up.
Dayaan Cassiem has been the heart and soul of the South African team and showed once again why he is so highly regarded as his brilliant 3D skills cracked the French defence open in the 4th quarter and Keenan Horne had an easy tap-in to give hosts a well-deserved lead. South Africa continued to play attacking hockey despite the lead, while their defence stood firm and repelled all French attacks, earning them a win and confirming their spot in the semi-finals, with a game still to play in the pool stage, against Ireland.
Tevin Kok, who had another stellar performance in attack, after mesmerizing fans with his performance against Pakistan yesterday, was awarded the player of the match.