Hockey Perspectives

Women’s Nations Cup: Indian Hockey Eves Made to Sweat by Pugnacious South Africa

It was a match where the final 2-0 scoreline in favour of India would never quite tell the true story. Ranking-wise South Africa were twelve places (ranked 20th) below 8th ranked India but the ‘ranking gap’ was never a factor as the African women gave a tough fight to the Olympic fourth-placed side and clearly won many hearts in their 0-2 defeat at Estadio Betero in Valencia.

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For the third time in as many games, the Indian eves secured an early lead when Deep Grace Ekka converted a shortie, rifling in a drag-flick towards the left corner and beat the lunging legs of South African goalkeeper Anelle van Deventer – it was India’s first short corner goal after a plethora of misses in the first two games. The early go-ahead goal should have pumped up India to go for broke but they found the South African resilience coming in their way.

The magnificent goalkeeping of Anelle van Deventer kept South Africa in the contest even as the African nation struggled to find the clinical final finish whenever they hovered over the Indian ‘D’. The doughty performance of Anelle van Deventer reminds of how South African men’s team goalkeeper Gowan Jones drove frustration in the Indian ranks in the semifinals of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games semifinals.

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The yelling of coach Janneke Schopan reveberated the Estadio Betero pitch but it did not seem to have much impact on the Indian forwardline comprising Navneet Kaur, Vandana Katariya, Sangita Kumar and Beauty Dung Dungh were made to look pedestrian by the South African deep defence – the likes Hannah Pearce, Stephanie Botha, and Kristy Adams complemented Anelle van Deventer well. The lack of big-match experience was a disadvantage for South Africa but they showed that they can hold their own against the higher ranked teams.

The likes of Monica Malik, Sonika Tandi, Deep Grace Ekka, Nisha Warshi gave a good account of themselves but overall they could not play their ‘A’ game. The manner in which Anelle van Deventer stopped the stroke off Sushila Chanu left no one in doubt who was the Man of the Match in the game.

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The tireless runs of South African skipper Quanita Bobbs – their most capped player and Erin Christie were a delight to watch – it was lack of ideas inside the Indian ‘D’ that cost them dearly. At one stage it appeared South African might just sneak in a goal and spoil the Indian party but Gurjit Kaur, who has been having a torrid time with her drag-flicks, fired home in the dying seconds to make the scoreline 2-0.

India hopefully would learn their lessons from this tough game against South Africa and turn over a new leaf in their semifinal against Ireland.