BRONZE MEDAL: SOUTH AFRICA 3 ARGENTINA 1
South Africa gave their huge crowd of supporters plenty to cheer when they atoned for the disappointment at losing the semi-final to capture the bronze medal with a convincing performance against the Pan-American champions.
Had the home team not spurned a succession of clear-cut chances they would have won by a much greater margin. Under pressure for much of the second-half when they led 2-1, goalkeeper Erasmus Pieterse made a brilliant save in the 48th minute clearing to safety what might have been the equaliser.
Two minutes from time, Lloyd Norris-Jones sealed the triumph with a simple tap-in from close range following a sweeping South Africa counter attack.
Austin Smith, the South Africa captain and linchpin in the midfield, said he thought the side were still capable of playing much better. He said: “We were scrappy and wasted a lot of opportunities – enough to have doubled the scoreline.”
But he was delighted to have beaten opponents ranked 8th in the world, five places above the SA squad. “This result makes up for losing the semi-final - sort of” he added. “It still doesn’t give us an Olympic place. But we have learnt from our mistakes and will continue to work on our weak areas.”
5/6th: MALAYSIA 3 POLAND 0
Malaysia finished their campaign on a high note securing a top five finish thanks to a goal in each half by Tengku Ahmad. After a disappointing start to the tournament and a couple of narrow defeats, the Malaysians have shown gradual improvement throughout the event with their young striker Faizal Saari in particular catching the eye.
Next up for the Malaysians is the Olympic qualifier in Dublin in March. Tai Beng Hai, Malaysia’s coach said his squad needed to finish more clinically and sort out several mistakes. However, he was happy there is a series against China before they travel to Ireland which would serve as excellent preparation.
7/8th: JAPAN 7 CANADA 2
Japan stunned Canada for the second time in the tournament following up their 2-1 victory in the pool matches with an emphatic win to clinch 7th place. The result sealed a dismal run for the Canadians who were completely outplayed by an ambitious Japan side.
Toshiro Tachibana and Genki Mitani each netted a brace to set Japan on their way as they head for the Olympic qualifier in their own country in April. Japan’s coach Wook Kang-Keon said his team had set out to take the game to their opponents adding: “We still need to improve our scoring skills and we’ll be working hard between now and April.”
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