SA women lose in tight final
Cape Town - The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team gave it their all in Parana, Argentina, on Monday morning but it was world champions Argentina who emerged with Four Nations gold following their 2-0 win in the final.
Las Leonas (the Lionesses) led 1-0 at half-time through Rosario Luchetti’s field goal and Sofia Maccari got the second after the changeover.
"If one of our second-half penalty corners had gone in, it might well have changed the game," said SA head coach Giles Bonnet afterwards. "The team stood up well against one of the best teams in the world and I am proud of the commitment and courage they showed."
The packed crowd made deafening noise at times - chanting and singing in tune in better times. Flags waving, confetti flying, firecrackers splitting the night air, drums beating incessantly, it was a tough nut for SA to crack. World number 12 South Africa were truly up against it in looking for their second win over Leonas in nine attempts during the past two years.
SA’s hardworking right half Nicolene Terblanche, in her 51st test match, was spirit personified while Sulette Damons was showing the same steel playing with a broken finger up front. However, the injury ensured the striker was never able to show her true colours. SA were again without 2010 SA Player of the Year Lesle-Ann George (ankle) but Shelley Russell was doing her best to play despite hamstring problems.
SA started well, moving the ball smoothly, captain Marsha Marescia in top form, along with a host of her teammates. Kathleen Taylor nailed a shot from the right just past the post in the opening 10 minutes after Marescia had supplied the pass.
Leonas kept probing and threatened with their swift-passing game and incisive running, but the SA defence made it difficult for them to make a mark. Two corners came and went, but Leonas drew first blood when Luchetti benefited from a neat move in confined space for the opening goal towards halftime.
SA continued threading some nice moves together and three minutes into the second half Bright’s shot tested the keeper, but Leonas got way soon after and Maccari broke free to net the second goal (2-0). Leonas were getting into their stride and defender Illse Davids made a great save while keeper Mariette Rix pulled off a couple of her own.
The girls in green and gold worked tirelessly to get back into the game and won two penalty corners as well as having chances from field play but the Leonas defence was able to stem the flow.
SA lost the previous Four Nations final 3-1 to Leonas in Buenos Aires the week before.
The bronze medal match between world number 13 India and world number 14 Ireland was played in conditions more suited to Delhi than Dublin, India beating Ireland 4-1 after the scores were locked 1-1 at halftime.
It was a heartening result for India, who will be South Africa’s chief rivals at the Olympic Qualifier tournament in Delhi from February 15 to 26, where the winners will earn a berth at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Ireland will also be gunning for an Olympic spot at their qualifier in Belgium early next year and they are already looking forward to the Investec Series of matches at Randburg Hockey Stadium beginning mid-January, which also features South Africa, Spain and Belgium.
The SA team fly in to Johannesburg on Thursday.
FOUR NATIONS RESULTS
SA 2 Ireland 2; Argentina 3 India 1.
India 2 Ireland 1; Argentina 2 SA 1
SA 2 India 1; Argentina 2 Ireland 1.
Bronze medal: India 4 Ireland 1.
Gold medal: Argentina 2 South Africa 0