Hockey World Cup: France beat South Africa 2-1, remain in contention for QF spot

Bhubaneswar, Jan 16 (IANS) France maintained their chances of qualifying for the quarterfinal by beating South Africa 2-1 in a Pool A match of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup at the Kalinga Stadium here on Monday.

France had started with a 0-8 defeat against World No. 1 Australia while South Africa had lost 0-1 to Argentina.

France and South Africa have competed multiple times over the past year in the FIH Hockey Pro League as well as the recently concluded FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup. In the Pro League, it was France who got the better of South Africa twice, while South Africa gained the upper hand in the Nations Cup. With both teams facing opening-day losses to Argentina and Australia, the head-to-head encounter was crucial for them both to try and win to avoid the bottom spot and try to make it to the quarterfinals or the crossovers.

Both teams produced attacking hockey as most fans expected, but goals in the first half came through penalty corners for both sides. Victor Charlet was the first to score with a low flick that snuck in between the keeper and the post defender. Connor Beauchamp equalised for South Africa in the 15th minute with an absolute ripper of a drag flick that went over the head of the French keeper and into the goal.

The second half followed a similar pattern, but it was Victor Charlet once again who made the difference, perfectly placing a low drag flick into the bottom corner to give France the lead with less than four minutes left, that won them the match.

“We had made our plans for this game because we know South Africa are a good side, so it was good to execute on those plans and earn this crucial win in the group,” Charlet, who was awarded player of the match, was quoted as saying by FIH on its website.

Malaysia beat Chile 3-2

Malaysia and Chile came into the opening contest of day 4 knowing it was crucial to get a win, with both teams having faced losses in their opening encounters against the Netherlands and New Zealand respectively.

Both teams played the match with an open attacking flair that they had been unable to express in their opening contests. Chile were the first to score from a penalty corner as Juan Amoroso’s drag flick went through the rushing Malaysian defenders and thumped the backboard. Malaysia then struck back as Razie Rahim scored from a penalty stroke. But Chile got their lead back before the half through a smashing reverse shot by Martin Rodriguez.

Malaysia had their work cut out if they wanted to win the game in the second half, but they got their act together quickly, scoring twice in the third quarter. Ashran Hamsani got the leveller, acrobatically deflecting a high ball from over his head, into the goal.

Norsyafiq Sumantri then put Malaysia in the lead, smartly passing the ball under the keeper on the reverse, after a Malaysian penalty corner attempt was deflected by the first rusher. Chile threatened to pull level in the very last second as they earned a penalty corner, but two massive saves from Malaysian keeper Hafizuddin Othman got Malaysia the win and all 3 points!

Norsyafiq Sumantri was adjudged the player of the match for scoring the decisive goal for Malaysia. Captain Marhan Jalil speaking after his team’s win said: “We are happy with the win. It wasn’t the perfect game, we could have played much better. But it’s 3 points and that was what we needed today.”

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