South Africa's Ricky West and Rodrigo Vila of Argentina battle for possession in their World League Round 2 meeting on Sunday.
South Africa's Ricky West and Rodrigo Vila of Argentina battle for possession in their World League Round 2 meeting on Sunday.
(Photo: Herald Jobin)

The South Africa men’s hockey team put up a great fight but lost 4-2 to world number 10 and World League Round 2 favourites Argentina at the Deodoro in Rio de Janeiro Sunday after the South Americans led 2-0 at half-time.

World number 12 SA must now beat world 25 Chile in their final match on Tuesday to ensure second place in Rio and with it a berth in the World League semi-finals in Malaysia.

It was a 150th Test match cap for captain of Argentina Lucas Rey in heat of 40 degrees Celsius on the pitch and it was also a perfect start for the South Americans when Enrique Paredes crossed brilliantly from the left and Augustin Mazzilli connected first-time from close to put the Argentines 1-0 up after four minutes (1-0).

With Argentina piling on the pressure and SA losing the ball too quickly on the first touch, Rodrigo Villa showed stunning stickwork along the right-hand baseline to net his side’s second goal in the 10th minute (2-0).

A crisp interchange of passes between the Argentine forwards had SA stretched to the limit. Argentina seemed to have players to spare in the first half and the extra space saw Guillermo Schickendantz force Rassie Pieterse into a great reflex save in goal.

In the 18th minute Julian Hykes intercepted 35 metres out and slipped a great pass to Austin Smith but the SA midfielder was very heavily tackled. A shout for a penalty stroke went up but to no avail, although SA did win their first penalty corner, Smith’s drag-flick gloved past the post by keeper Juan Vivaldi.

In the 25th minute SA's best chance of the half occurred with a fluid move up the right wing after Tim Drummond's square pass started it from the left but Hykes's shot flashed past the wrong side of the far post.

Lloyd Norris-Jones's rasping reverse-stick shot brought a fine save from Vivaldi before SA defended two penalty corners very well in the last five minutes of the first half, Ricky West also making a top-class sliding tackle just before Argentina went into half-time leading 2-0.

The second half started with SA transferring the ball at pace and running intelligently off the ball, but SA then lost the ball and Argentina pounced, Guillermo Schickendantz crossing from the left and a full-length dive by Facundo Callioni deflecting the ball into the backboard (3-0) in the 40th minute. SA hit back and Norris-Jones found the target after good build-up play in the 42nd minute (3-1).

On the 23-metre line, Jethro Eustice then intercepted and passed square left to Clint Panther who smashed into the net on the backhand (3-2) in the 47th minute.

In the 53rd minute Argentina break away and Lucas Vila fed Pedro Ibarra who finished with exquisite skill, the ball rocketing past Pieterse in goal (4-2).     

Argentina finished strongly but the scoreline remained unchanged.

There was a huge upset in the early match in what was probably the most exciting contest so far, when Trinidad and Tobago, ranked 34th, beat 29th-ranked USA 4-3 on sudden-death penalty shootout after the score was 1-1 at full-time.

The hero was T&T goalkeeper Andrey Rockey, who was a collossus in goal.

USA captain Pat Harris netted a penalty corner in the 22nd minute of regulation time while Akim Toussaint equalised a minute from full-time to rapturous applause from the T&T fans, who were magnificent.

In the middle match, Chile beat an heroic yet badly depleted Brazil 3-1 after the score was 0-0 at half-time.

Chile had to wait till the 62nd minute when an own goal opened the scoring. 

Then two minutes later Sven Richter made it 2-0 from field play before Sebastian Kapsch made it 3-0 in the 69th, but the most celebrated goal of the day for Brazilian fans was the penalty corner goal by Matheus Borges in the last minute of the exciting match.