Do or die for SA hockey men
Rhett Halkett (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - After suffering a disappointing 4-2 loss to Argentina on Sunday, the South Africa men’s hockey team has to beat Chile on Tuesday to qualify for the World League semi-finals in Malaysia in June.
Tuesday's clash is a winner-takes-all affair as Chile are also on nine points.
A draw in regulation time and one point each is not good enough for SA, as the match would then head into a penalty shootout, with the winners earning a bonus point. This would leave SA on 10 points and Chile on 11.
SA head coach Charlie Pereira, reflecting on the loss to Argentina, said the two soft goals in the first 10 minutes were crucial, as was an umpiring decision which denied the South Africans a penalty stroke.
“We have got to defend in front of such skilful strikers, not behind them," Pereira said.
"While the penalty stroke we should have been awarded at 2-0 down also cost us dearly."
SA were 3-0 down at one point early in the second half after another soft goal, but fought back to 3-2.
“We had Argentina very worried but our inexperience in defence, three players in their first tournament and two with very few caps, was tough and they scored again,” Pereira added.
“Argentina probably have 100 Test caps on average to our 30, they have been together a long time and won the Junior World Cup not too long ago, as well as the Champions Challenge last October.”
The South African side, led by newly appointed skipper Rhett Halkett, was only selected 31 days ago, with a new coach and management staff. They have only been together for two weeks as a team.
In contrast, the Argentina side have much the same players from the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Pereira said SA would have to be clinical against Chile to progress to Malaysia later this year.
“Our basic skills under pressure let us down, which put further pressure on us, and we have to minimise that against Chile,” Pereira added.