An impressive total of 84 goals were scored across the opening 12 games of the FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup in Pretoria, South Africa as there were victories for Argentina, USA, Netherlands, defending champions Austria and Belgium in the men’s tournament and for Austria, Australia, Netherlands, Kazakhstan and the Czech Republic in the women’s event.
Debutants Argentina enjoyed the best possible introduction to the men’s tournament, winning their opening match against 2018 bronze medallists Iran.
The Iranians raced to a 2-0 lead in the first quarter after Mohammad Karimi was on target with his penalty corner strikes, first slotting into the top left corner and then the top right.
Facundo Navarro then earned his place in history as the scorer of the Argentinian men’s first-ever goal at an FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup.
The Iranians came back to take a 3-1 lead by half time but the determined debutants would not go away without a fight. Four second-half goals to Iran’s one, including a second from Navarro, ensured the Argentinians claimed a remarkable 5-4 victory.
“It’s amazing. I can’t believe it – it’s a dream come true,” said Navarro afterwards. “I don’t have words to explain it… it was just amazing.”
His coach, former Italian international Massimo Lanzano, added: “I think the most important focus during this match was the mind. Our boys stayed in the match every minute.
“This gives us a lot of confidence of course… We have to enjoy this moment but also think about the next match.”
Meanwhile, facing an even more daunting task in their opening match were fellow debutants, the New Zealand women’s team, who faced off against 2018 silver medallists, the Netherlands.
While the Kiwi defence put in a valiant effort, the Netherlands, who are among the title favourites in Pretoria, were untroubled in notching up a double-digit score. Captain Donja Zwinkels scored five goals as the Dutch cruised to a 10-0 victory.
“For me it doesn’t really matter how many times I score but I think we did a really good job as a team. I’m really proud of how we started and I’m so excited for the rest of the tournament,” said Zwinkels.
New Zealand captain Pippa Norman was determined not to be too negative about the result after their first-ever World Cup match.
“It’s a tricky one coming up against one of the best teams in the world but that’s what playing sport is all about. We’re obviously the new kids on the block and if we come to a World Cup we expect to play against the best teams in the world,” she said.
“So, although the scoreline might look big for everyone else, there are plenty of positives that we can take away… Lots of good things happened and we look forward to building on that in the next week.”
Earlier in the day it was the South African women’s and men’s teams that got the tournament underway. The SA women took on Austria while the men took on Australia.
It seemed fitting that the first goal of the tournament came from the host nation’s women’s captain Jess O’Connor. The evenly contested encounter saw the teams matching each other goal for goal until Marta Laginja scored her second, and Austria’s third goal with just two minutes to go. But it was Stella van Rahden who proved to be the star for the seventh-ranked Austrians, saving a penalty stroke awarded to the South Africans in the dying seconds to secure the 3-2 victory.
Mustapha Cassiem scored a brace for the South African men’s team to take a 2-0 lead against Australia. But it was captain Jethro Eustice who scored the all-important third goal, after the Aussies came back at them, to earn a 3-all draw for the home team.
At just 14 years old, it was an opening match to remember for American teen sensation Reese D’Ariano who scored two of the USA women’s goals in their match against Australia. The Americans eventually went down 4-2, but there was a hattrick for D’Ariano’s compatriot Marius Leser on his Indoor Hockey World Cup debut in the USA men’s 4-3 upset victory over the fourth-ranked Czech Republic.
The other hattricks of the day came from the Netherlands men’s Max Sweering in his side’s 7-1 win over Namibia, with three Dutch goals scored in the final four minutes, and Austria’s Fabian Unterkircher in the defending champions’ 7-1 win over New Zealand. Belgium’s captain Philippe Simar then also got in on the act in the final match of the night, scoring five goals in his team’s victory over Kazakhstan by exactly the same margin of 7-1.
After the South African men drew with Australia, the only other draw of the day was registered in the women's tournament between third-ranked Ukraine and a resolute Canadian side, ranked 16th in the world.
After the first day of entertaining action in Pretoria, the Netherlands top Pool A in the women’s tournament and the Czech Republic find themselves atop Pool B. In the men’s tournament Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands all share top spot in Pool A while Pool B is topped by Argentina.
5 February 2023 Results
Result: Match 1 – women
Austria 3 – 2 South Africa
Result: Match 1 – men
Australia 3 – 3 South Africa
Result Match 2 – women
Australia 4 – 2 USA
Result Match 2 – men
Iran 4 – 5 Argentina
Result Match 3 – women
Netherlands 10 – 0 New Zealand
Result Match 3 – men
Czech Republic 3 – 4 USA
Result Match 4 – women
Namibia 3 – 5 Kazakhstan
Result Match 4 – men
Netherlands 7 – 1 Namibia
Result Match 5 – women
Ukraine 1 – 1 Canada
Result Match 5 – men
Austria 7 – 1 New Zealand
Result Match 6 – women
Czech Republic 6 – 1 Belgium
Result Match 6 – men
Belgium 7 – 1 Kazakhstan