|February 25th, 2012|
|18||Final||8:00pm||RSA - IND||3 - 1 (2 - 0)||Final|
South Africa finished at the top of the round-robin standings with four wins and a draw (against Italy), while India suffered a draw against Ukraine on opening day, lost cleanly to South Africa (2-5) and finally qualified with a late goal against Italy.
Of course, none of that mattered anymore: at the end of the 70 minutes of this winner-take-all Final, one team would go to the Olympic Games in London and the other would watch the Games on television.
The South Africans did not lose any time to stake their claim on the ticket to London: within three minutes of play, a cross from the right eluded a couple of Indian defenders and found Shelley RUSSELL unmarked in the circle, with space and time to turn and slot a reversed shot past a stunned Yogita BALI in the Indian goal.
The host crowd found back their voice a few minutes later when India earned a penalty-corner, but they could not control it and Sulette DAMONS promptly pushed away the danger. South Africa were under pressure for the next twenty minutes but showed their experience by calmly weathering the storm, well organized around Marsha MARESCIA. They started pressing higher on the Indian midfielders, forcing them to release the ball early, too often into empty space, and South Africa could finally get some momentum going.
On a ball stolen in midfield by Pietie COETZEE and immediately turned into a counter-attack, they earned a penalty-corner, but could not control it better than India at the other end. They had another unsuccessful attempt at penalty-corner before Pietie COETZEE was finally on target for the third one with a hard low flick, giving South Africa a more comfortable lead going into the half-time break (2-0).
India had no other option than going into full attack mode and they started second period with all guns blazing. South Africa were saved on one occasion by their goal-keeper Mariette RIX, standing tall in front of a high forward entering the circle at speed with no defender in sight.
The Indian efforts were however not structured enough, often ending in long balls sent towards high forwards looking for a deflection in the circle. The South Africans stayed regrouped in their 25m, closing the options for the Indian attackers and patiently buying their time.
On a rare incursion in the Indian circle, Pietie COETZEE hit the post, but was awarded a penalty-corner. Her low flick was deflected in front of the goal-keeper by Marsha MARESCIA for a third goal that made the ticket to London a closer reality for the South Africans.
The Indian players and the local crowd seemed deflated after this third goal and the vuvuzelas of the few South African fans were joyfully competing with the usually boisterous crowd. India was however not done yet and scored on penalty-corner by Jaspreet KAUR with fifteen minutes to go, ensuring an intense end of match. India tried until the end, but the clock was ticking down too fast for them, and South Africa were soon celebrating the win (3-1) and, more important, their qualification for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Player of the Final was Marsha MARESCIA, captain of South Africa, who won a Hero scooter!