South Africa and Egypt will contest the men's Greenfields African Hockey Championship after both teams won their respective Semi-Finals at the event taking place in Randburg, Johannesburg in South Africa on Saturday.
The first Semi-Final of the day saw Egypt, who have been impressive throughout this tournament, put in a compelling performance to run out 7-1 winners against Ghana (World Ranking: 41).
The team ranked 20th in the world played with energy and imagination and were deserving winners, but the scoreline does not do justice to the Ghanaian performance, which also fizzed with energy but lacked Egypt’s clinical finishing.
Mohamed Adel opened the scoring for Egypt in the sixth minute, Ashraf Said’s early ball fed the forward who made no mistake as he blazed a backhand shot past Eugene Acheampong in the Kenyan goal.
A minute later, Egypt’s penalty corner specialist Mahmood Mahdouh doubled the lead through a drag flick. He is currently the tournament’s top scorer with 15 goals to his name.
Ashraf Said added a third goal and the first half finished with Egypt scoring a fourth goal on the whistle. Mohamed Edris slotting home a penalty corner, after two Ghana defenders had been banished to the half-way line for breaking early.
In the second half, Acheampong pulled off a string of athletic saves but had no answer when Ahmed Elnaggar pounced on a rebounded penalty corner to make it 5-0.
Ghana did pull one back, when Michael Baiden scored from a quick break and, throughout the game, Ghana created plenty of chances themselves.
They will berate themselves for squandering these goal-scoring opportunities but, in contrast, it seemed Egypt could do no wrong, and Mohamed Hassan scored the final two Egypt goals to ensure his team were securely in the final and within touching distance of a place at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
In the second Semi-Final of the day, South Africa were made to work to the final whistle in an entertaining match against Kenya. And in fact it was Kenya, who are ranked 39th in the world, who took the lead against the 15th ranked team.
After a goalless first half, Kenya opened the scoring through George Mutria in the 48th minute. South Africa equalised three minutes later through Lloyd Norris-Jones and then Pierre de Voux slotted in the winner with just five minutes left of the game.
The action throughout the game was end-to-end, with Kenya’s front running men causing the South African defence all sorts of problems, but ‘keeper Erammus Pieterse was on fine form, best demonstrated with a fantastic triple save in the second quarter of the match.
This was a game full of energy and physicality. Both teams finished with just 10 men on the field after two yellow cards were shown and numerous green cards saw players exiting the field with regularity.
As the final whistle went, South Africa will have breathed a sigh of relief as they came perilously close to losing their unbeaten record in this tournament.
There was a dramatic finale to the 5/6th play-off match between Zimbabwe and Nigeria as Zimbabwe overturned a 2-0 deficit in the final seconds of regulation time to take the match to shoot-out.
The shoot-out was all square at five attempts, so sudden death beckoned and Nigeria duly held their nerve to win the match and take fifth place.
The results means that South Africa will face Egypt in tomorrow’s final; Kenya will play Ghana for the bronze medal and Namibia will play Tanzania in the 7/8th place play-off.
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Semi-Finals: Egypt 7, Ghana 1; Semi-Final 2: South Africa 2, Kenya 1.
5/6th play-off: Zimbabwe 2, Nigeria 2, (Nigeria win 3-2 on shoot-out).