South Africa may have been shaded 1-0 by Australia's Hockeyroos in the SPAR Cup, women's hockey tournament at Queensmead in Durban Friday, but they emerged from the Test match with a lot of credit.
With world number two team Argentina waltzing into the final after outclassing 14th-ranked India 7-1, the last round-robin match was going to determine their opponents for the gold medal match at 15:00 Saturday.
Coach Jenny King's South African team were focused and disciplined throughout in an excellent performance. The Hockeyroos needed a draw to reach the final, SA a win, and the match seesawed from goalmouth to goalmouth.
The winner came six minutes from time with a double deflection that beat outstanding SA goalkeeper Mariette Rix, the Hockeyroos' Kate Hollywood getting the final touch.
Australia's coach Frank Murray - winner of multiple gold medals including Olympic gold - said the match could have gone either way and he regards the home team's level of determination a benchmark for world hockey.
In the earlier Test match Argentina scored four penalty corners and three field goals against a hardworking but outclassed India – a very young side whose average age is 20. Head coach Carlos Retegui's Argentina were in irresistible form, beating India 7-1 after leading 4-0 at half-time.
Argentina are superb in just about every facet, and in the incomparable World Hockey Player of the Year Luciana Aymar, who has won the title four times, Argentina have a match-winner. Running from the midfield, Aymar will be hard for the Hockeyroos to stop.
Murray said Argentina were capable of tearing an opponent apart. 'We must control the tempo and be in the final for 70 minutes,' he said.
'Marine Russo is very quick and a foil to Aymar, which gives her more space. It's the fittest Argentinean side I have ever seen.'
And come Saturday's gold medal match, it will take a brave pundit to suggest that the South Americans won't take the SPAR Cup trophy.
In the bronze medal match the South African team tackle India.
Argentina – India 7-1 (4-0)
Goals Argentina: Noel Barionuevo 2, Carla Dupuy, Josefina Sruoga, Alejandra Gulla 2, Daniela Sruoga, Delfina Merino
Goal India: 1 Rani Rampa
Australia – South Africa 1-0 (0-0)
Goal Australia: Kate Hollywood
1. Argentina 3-7 (12-4)
2. Australia 3-7 (6-3)
3. South Africa 3-3 (5-5)
4. India 3-0 (3-14)
Saturday 6 June 2009
Bronze Medal Match: South Africa – India
Final: Argentina – Australia
Source: BLD / SAHA
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