Day four of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 promised close contests as teams started to get a clearer picture of the results they needed to reach the targets they had set for the pool stages.
Malaysia vs Chile in Pool C and France vs South Africa in Pool A were crucial contests in terms of avoiding a 4th place finish, which rules teams out of the quarterfinals contention, with all four teams having lost their first matches at the World Cup.
Malaysia were the first team to get on the board today, coming back from a goal down twice to beat Chile 3-2. France would replicate them later in the day winning another close contest against South Africa to register their first points in Pool A.
In the battle of the unbeaten teams, Netherlands made light work of New Zealand beating them 4-0, making it two wins in two, to get to 6 points and now need just a draw in their final game against Chile to confirm their spot at the top of Pool C and earn a direct entry into the quarterfinals.
In Pool A, Argentina and Australia played a highly entertaining draw where the momentum swung from one side to the other. Australia were down 3-2 with just two minutes remaining, but Blake Govers, returning from injury, stepped up when it mattered and scored a fantastic goal to keep Australia at the top of the pool, thanks to their vastly superior goal difference.
Match 1: Malaysia vs Chile 3-2
Malaysia and Chile came into the opening contest of day four knowing it was crucial to get a win, with both teams having faced losses in their opening encounters against Netherlands and New Zealand respectively. Both teams played the contest with an open attacking flair that they had been unable to express in their opening contests. Chile were the first to score from a penalty corner as Juan Amoroso’s drag flick went through the rushing Malaysian defenders and thumped the backboard. Malaysia then struck back as Razie Rahim scored from a penalty stroke. But Chile got their lead back before the half through a smashing reverse shot by Martin Rodriguez.
Malaysia had their work cut out if they wanted to win the game in the second half, but they got their act together quickly, scoring twice in the third quarter. Ashran Hamsani got the leveller, acrobatically deflecting a high ball from over his head, into the goal. Norsyafiq Sumantri then put Malaysia in the lead, smartly passing the ball under the keeper on the reverse, after a Malaysian penalty corner attempt was deflected by the first rusher. Chile threatened to pull level in the very last second as they earned a penalty corner, but two massive saves from Malaysian keeper Hafizuddin Othman got Malaysia the win and all three points.
Norsyafiq Sumantri was awarded the player of the match for scoring the decisive goal for Malaysia. Captain Marhan Jalil speaking after his team’s win said: “We are happy with the win. It wasn’t the perfect game, we could have played much better. But it’s three points and that was what we needed today.”
Match 2: New Zealand vs Netherlands 0-4
Netherlands were handed a big break inside the first five minutes of the game as a poor backward pass from Kane Russell was easily intercepted by Tjep Hoedemakers and he squared up the ball to captain Thierry Brinkman, who had just the keeper to beat, and his powerful shot did juts that. Netherlands added another goal in the first quarter as New Zealand substituted their keeper for an outfield player in a surprising move, which allowed Netherlands to attack the circle and find Koen Bijen who had an open goal to tap the ball into. Thierry Brinkman then added a second goal of his own before the half, as a smart deflection at the top of the circle managed to sneak past the Kiwi keeper who was brought back on in the second quarter.
New Zealand were much more composed in defence in the second half, making it a fairly even battle. But the Netherlands would not be denied. They first had the ball in the back of the goal in the final minute of quarter 3, but it was taken away for a foul in the build up. The scoreline wouldn’t stay at 3-0 for long though, as Tjep Hoedemakers who was at his industrious best, got on the end of a cross by captain Brinkman to add a 4th goal in the final quarter and make it six points out of six for the Netherlands.
Dutch captain Thierry Brinkman was awarded player of the match and said: “Happy to get 4 field goals today. We probably could have scored more to be honest, but happy overall with two wins in two.”
Match 3: France vs South Africa 2-1
France and South Africa have competed multiple times over the past year in the FIH Hockey Pro League as well as the recently concluded FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup. In the Pro League, it was France who got the better of South Africa twice, while South Africa gained the upper hand in the Nations Cup. With both teams facing opening day losses to Argentina and Australia, the head-to-head encounter was crucial for them both to try and win in order to avoid the bottom spot and try to make it to the quarterfinals or the crossovers.
Both teams produced attacking hockey as most fans expected, but goals in the first half came through penalty corners for both sides. Victor Charlet was the first to score with a low flick that snuck in between the keeper and the post defender. Connor Beauchamp equalised for South Africa in the 15th minute with an absolute ripper of a drag flick that went over the head of the French keeper and into the goal. The second half followed a similar pattern, but it was Victor Charlet once again who made the difference, perfectly placing a low drag flick into the bottom corner to give France the lead with less than 4 minutes left, that won them the match.
Charlet was awarded player of the match and said: “We had made our plans for this game because we know South Africa are a good side, so it was good to execute on those plans and earn this crucial win in the group.”
Match 4: Argentina vs Australia 3-3
Australia were the form team of the tournament coming into the game, after winning the first game against France by a massive 8-0 margin. Argentina also came into the game with confidence off the back of a solid victory against South Africa.
Argentina began the game on the front foot, forcing turnovers by Australia in their own half, creating shooting opportunities, while the Kookaburras looked tentative. Australia earned a penalty corner with their first foray into the Argentine circle and Jeremy Hayward scored his fourth penalty corner of the tournament to give his team the lead.
Argentina struck back early in the second quarter through a Tomas Domene penalty corner but Australia restored their lead with two seconds left in the half as a moment of total chaos in the Argentine circle ended with a shot by Daniel Beale that brushed off the keeper’s foot and lifted into the goal.
Argentina levelled the score right at the start of the second half through the excellent Maico Casella, who scored in a second consecutive game for Argentina. Martin Ferreiro who looked menacing all evening broke the tie with twelve minutes to go, as he was afforded a lot of time and space in the circle and he picked the bottom corner from his reverse shot, with perfection.
Australia threw everything they had at the Argentine goal towards the end of the game and it was star player Blake Govers who capitalised on an error by the Argentine defence and smashed a reverse hit into the corner of the goal to tie the game up.
Martin Ferreiro was awarded the player of the match and said: “That must have been a good game to watch from the stands and on TV. We made a small mistake at the very end and that gave Australia the chance to level the score, but we are happy with this result overall.”