Johannesburg - Candice Manuel scored twice in three minutes
to give hosts South Africa a shock 3-2 win over the United States on Sunday and
a women's Hockey World League quarter-final place.
It was a must-win Pool B match for the host nation if they
were to avoid elimination and they triumphed through passion and skill at the
University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
South Africa face Germany Tuesday in the quarter-finals
while the United States play Japan, Argentina meet Ireland and England face
The United States led South Africa twice in a thriller
before Manuel turned the tide in favour of the hosts through goals on 49 and 51
In a tense finish, South Africa were twice reduced to nine
players when players were sent to the sin bin, but they survived for a dramatic
South Africa were unrecognisable from the team that drew
their pool opener against India, then lost to Argentina and Chile.
They forced many midfield turnovers, counterattacked with
pace and won over a crowd crammed into a 2 000-seat stadium through a
"The crowd were magnificent and drove us to
victory," said smiling skipper Sulette Damons.
"We always believed we could beat the Americans. We
owed our supporters a victory after not playing very well in earlier matches.
"Candice (Manuel) was phenomenal. We owe her a debt of
gratitude. Her first goal was great and the second fantastic."
South Africa coach Sheldon Rostron had been a glum figure
all week with his team failing to spark amid expectations that they should at
least reach the quarter-finals.
But he managed a shy smile after the most dramatic match of
20 in a pool stage involving 10 nations, including England and Argentina,
ranked second and third in the world.
"My heart is pounding a lot faster than it should
be," he said. "We delivered our awesome 'A' game today and can look
forward to the quarter-finals with confidence."
American hockey legend Melissa Gonzalez gave her team a
first-quarter lead that Jade Mayne cancelled before half-time as the crowd
cheered every South African attack.
But a temporary hush enveloped the stadium when leading
tournament scorer Jill Wilmer claimed her fourth goal as the third quarter drew
to a close.
Manuel then struck twice, slipping unnoticed into the 'D' to
snatch the winner with a shot under the right foot of the onrushing goalkeeper.
Argentina cruised to a 3-0 win over India in the same
section and topped the table with a maximum 12 points.
The United States got six points, South Africa and India
four and Chile were eliminated with three, much to the despair of emotional
coach Sergio Vigil, who was in the crowd.
Almost as exciting as the clash between the South Africans
and Americans was England edging Ireland 3-2 in a Pool A match that offered
first place to either side if they won.
With a 13-place rankings advantage, England were favoured
and built a 2-0 half-time lead before being rocked by two Irish goals within
International hockey superstar Alex Danson put England ahead
again and her team survived a late score when Anna O'Flanagan slipped in the
circle as she prepared to shoot.
Workmanlike Germany triumphed 3-0 over Japan, inflicting a
first defeat on the 'Cherry Blossoms'.
England topped the final standings with nine points, Germany
shaded Japan for second spot on goal difference after each collected seven,
Ireland got five and Poland none.