High quality hockey in both semi-finals were settled with moments of brilliance as Ireland and South Africa booked their spots in the first ever finals of the FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup South Africa 2022, with the winning team earning a promotion into the FIH Hockey Pro League for the 2023-24 season.
Both semi-finals were extremely tactical with the teams going into the half at 0-0. The deadlock was broken for Ireland by Benjamin Walker and Jeremy Duncan then utilized the space behind the Malaysian defense to score twice to continue Ireland’s perfect tournament, making it 4 wins in 4 games.
In the second semi-finals, it was Tevin Kok, who has been South Africa’s best attacking outlet so far, who scored first for the hosts, but Korea leveled from their third penalty corner, with Jonghyun Jang scoring his 6th goal of the tournament. Neither team could find a winner and the teams headed for the first shoot-out of the event. South Africa made a keeper change for the shoot-out and Anton van Loggerenberg justified the change saving three attempts, including a game winning save against Jonghyun Jang’s penalty stroke from Korea’s 5th attempt, securing the win for South Africa.
Earlier in the day France put in an offensive masterclass to trounce Canada 7-1, with Blaise Rogeau scoring the first hat-trick of the event and captain Victor Charlet scoring twice, while Japan got the better of Pakistan in a closely fought encounter. Pakistan and Canada will now play in the 7th place playoff tomorrow, while France and Japan will play for 5th.
The full schedule of the games tomorrow at the FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup, including the finals, can be seen here.
Match 1 - France vs Canada 7-1
France came into the FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup as strong favorites but so far had flattered to deceive, with losses against Ireland and South Africa followed by a draw against Pakistan. Their defense had done reasonably well through most of the three matches, barring an errant 2nd half display against Pakistan, but their attack, which boasts of some real stars, never got going in the pool stage.
Things turned around big time today, as France met Canada in the 5-8 classification match. It took France 15 minutes to open the scoring through captain Victor Charlet, but that goal opened the floodgates and France scored 6 more goals over the course of the match. Blaise Rogeau was the pick of the players scoring the first hat-trick of the Nations Cup. Canada scored a cracking goal of their own through a Matthew Sarmento tomahawk shot from the edge of the circle, but it was little more than a consolation as the game ended 7-1 in favor of France.
Hat-trick hero Blaise Rogeau was awarded the player of the match and said: “We were disappointed that we didn’t qualify for the semi-finals, so it was important to show improvements on the field and we did that today, now we will watch the Japan vs Pakistan game to know who we play tomorrow and we will try to finish the tournament on a high.”
Match 2 - Japan vs Pakistan 3-1
Pakistan’s best performance in the Nations Cup ends up in a loss, as their failure to convert chances, and Japan’s helps Japan earn a victory and the opportunity to face France in the 5th place playoff. Pakistan will play Canada in the 7th place playoff match, in the first match tomorrow.
Pakistan looked threatening through the first three quarters of the game, often getting into the Japanese circle with chances to score, but for all their attacking intent and opportunities, the final touch was missing. Their defense lived dangerously too, conceding far too many penalty corners, and Japan finally broke the deadlock right before half-time, through their 6th opportunity from the set piece. As Pakistan’s looked to mount a comeback, they overcommitted on attack, and Japan exposed the space behind the Pakistani defense with two goals on the counter-attack. Pakistan scored one goal of their own in the 4th quarter through the impressive Rooman, but it wasn’t enough, as Pakistan will now face Canada in the 7th place play-off, while Japan will face France in the battle for 5th place.
Japanese goalkeeper Takashi Yoshikawa was awarded player of the match for his stellar efforts in keeping Pakistan from scoring through the first three quarters, and said: “We recently lost to Pakistan in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, in the 3rd place playoff, so it’s good to get one back against them today. We will look to carry the momentum from this game and finish the tournament on a high tomorrow against France.”
Match 3 - Ireland vs Malaysia 3-0
Two moments of pure magic from Ireland in the third quarter broke a stalemate leading them to a win and a spot in the finals of the inaugural FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup 2022, in a tough, tactical battle against Malaysia.
In a tense and fairly even game, the momentum swung from one team to another, but neither team could find a breakthrough until the 41st minute, when a brilliant piece of control by Benjamin Walker in the Malaysian circle allowed him to swivel and smash a shot past the Malaysian keeper to give Ireland the lead. Two minutes later, yet another Irish attack from the left saw the ball pass around beautifully, allowing Jeremy Duncan to pass the ball into an empty goal. And while Malaysia searched for a way back into the game in the final quarter, it was Ireland through Duncan again, who created a wonderful 3-on-1 opportunity and scored the goal that sealed Malaysia’s fate.
Captain Sean Murray was awarded the player of the match for yet another outstanding controlled performance in the midfield, shielding the watertight Irish defense, and said: “Really good job by our forwards scoring three beautiful goals. It was a tough match but we edged the big moments and we are thrilled to have the chance to play in the finals tomorrow.”
Match 4 - Korea vs South Africa 1-1 (2-3 shootout)
Korea and South Africa met in the second semi-finals which proved to be another cagey affair with neither team able to produce a goal in the first half. But much like the first semi-final, a moment of brilliance broke the deadlock. For South Africa it was 25 year-old Tevin Kok, who has scored some belters already in the Nations Cup, coming up big once again, with a smashing reverse shot to open the scoring.
Jonghyun Jang, the leading scorer of the Nations Cup stepped up once again from the penalty corner, to get his 6th goal, to level the score for Korea and the match headed into a shoot-out. The shoot-outs are always a nervous affair, but that was not the case for South African keeper Anton van Loggerenberg, who was substituted in for the shoot-out, and showed no nerves as he showed remarkable composure in the goal throughout the shoot-outs. Of the 5 attempts he faced, he managed to save 3, including a save from the penalty stroke on Korea’s fifth shoot-out attempt, by the deadly Joghyun Jang, taking South Africa to the finals against Ireland tomorrow!
It was the other South African keeper, Hendrik Kreik who was awarded the player of the match, for his brilliant string of saves against Korea in the regulation time. Upon receiving the award Kreik said: “This win is all about the team. It was such a great overall performance, and the keeping from Anton in the shoot-outs was just incredible. I am standing alone here to receive the award, but the whole team deserves this, no doubt in my mind.”
FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup South Africa 2022 - Day 4 (3 December 2022)
Result: Match 1
France 7-1 Canada
Player of the Game: Blaise Rogeau (FRA)
Umpires: Aziz Adimah (GHA), Hideki Kinoshita (JPN), Gabriel Labate (ARG-video), Tim Meissner (GER-reserve)
Result: Match 2
Japan 3-1 Pakistan
Player of the Game: Takashi Yoshikawa (JPN)
Umpires: Benjamin Peters (USA), Bevan Nichol (NZL), Zeke Newman (AUS-reserve), Nazmi Kamaruddin (MAS-video)
Result: Match 3
Ireland 3-0 Malaysia
Player of the Game: Sean Murray (IRL)
Umpires: Ayden Shrives (RSA), Tim Meissner (GER), Sébastien Michielsen (BEL-reserve), Hideki Kinoshita (JPN-video)
Result: Match 4
Korea 1-1 South Africa (2-3 shoot-out)
Player of the Game: Hendrik Kreik (RSA)
Umpires: Nazmi Kamaruddin (MAS), Zeke Newman (AUS), Gabriel Labate (ARG-reserve), Bevan Nichol (NZLvideo)