High quality hockey in both semi-finals were settled with moments on Saturday of brilliance as Ireland and hosts South Africa booked their spots in the first ever final of the FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup.
Both semi-finals were extremely tactical with the teams going into the half at 0-0. The deadlock was broken for Ireland by Benjamin Walker and Jeremy Duncan then utilized the space behind the Malaysian defense to score twice to continue Ireland’s perfect tournament, making it 4 wins in 4 games.
In the second semi-finals, it was Tevin Kok, who has been South Africa’s best attacking outlet so far, who scored first for the hosts, but Korea leveled from their third penalty corner, with Jonghyun Jang scoring his 6th goal of the tournament. Neither team could find a winner and the teams headed for the first shoot-out of the event. South Africa made a keeper change for the shoot-out and Anton van Loggerenberg justified the change saving three attempts, including a game winning save against Jonghyun Jang’s penalty stroke from Korea’s 5th attempt, securing the win for South Africa.
Earlier in the day France put in an offensive masterclass to trounce Canada 7-1, with Blaise Rogeau scoring the first hat-trick of the event and captain Victor Charlet scoring twice, while Japan got the better of Pakistan in a closely fought encounter. Pakistan and Canada will now play in the 7th place playoff tomorrow, while France and Japan will play for 5th.
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.
Semifinal 1: Ireland vs Malaysia 3-0
Two moments of pure magic from Ireland in the third quarter broke a stalemate leading them to a win and a spot in the final.
In a tense and fairly even game, the momentum swung from one team to another, but neither team could find a breakthrough until the 41st minute, when a brilliant piece of control by Benjamin Walker in the Malaysian circle allowed him to swivel and smash a shot to give Ireland the lead. Two minutes later, yet another Irish attack from the left saw the ball pass around beautifully, allowing Jeremy Duncan to pass the ball into an empty goal. And while Malaysia searched for a way back into the game in the final quarter, it was Ireland through Duncan again, who created a wonderful 3-on-1 opportunity and scored the goal that sealed Malaysia’s fate.
Captain Sean Murray was awarded the player of the match for yet another outstanding controlled performance in the midfield, shielding the watertight Irish defense.
Semifinal 2: Korea vs South Africa 1-1 (2-3 shootout)
Korea and South Africa met in the second semi-finals which proved to be another cagey affair with neither team able to produce a goal in the first half. But much like the first semi-final, a moment of brilliance broke the deadlock. For South Africa it was 25 year-old Tevin Kok, who has scored some belters already in the Nations Cup, coming up big once again, with a smashing reverse shot to open the scoring.
Jonghyun Jang, the leading scorer of the Nations Cup stepped up once again from the penalty corner, to get his 6th goal, to level the score for Korea and the match headed into a shoot-out. The shoot-outs are always a nervous affair, but that was not the case for South African keeper Anton van Loggerenberg, who was substituted in for the shoot-out, and showed remarkable composure. Of the 5 attempts he faced, he managed to save 3, including a save from the penalty stroke on Korea’s fifth shoot-out attempt, by the deadly Joghyun Jang, taking South Africa to the final.
It was the other South African keeper, Hendrik Kreik who was awarded the player of the match, for his brilliant string of saves against Korea in the regulation time.