Junior Hockey: Cup for Nations
Essentially a World Cup qualifying tournament for African U21 Hockey teams, the Cup for Nations was held in South Africa this past week at the Southern Gauteng Hockey Club’s Randburg venue.
In the boys section the hosts South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Egypt. In the girls section, the hosts, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
The tournament ended with South Africa winning both sections and qualifying for the World Cup but the results don’t tell the full story of what, for me at least, was quite an interesting tournament. Hockey is one of those sports we are quite good at even though there is little to no sponsorship and thin support despite a large player base.
Highlights for me were the Egypt Ghana game where Ghana still had a chance to qualify for the final if they could beat Egypt and the final match between South Africa and Egypt. They were the two games where the result was close and could’ve gone either way.
Egypt won against Ghana 6-5 but not before the lead had changed hands several times. An emotional roller coaster for players, supporters and management. In the final both teams had several chances to put the result out of reach. Egypt his the cross bar and their goalkeeper made several fantastic saves. SA also carelessly wasted several short corners which may have put the game to bed.
In the end the gold medal position was decided by penalty shootout with a twist. Unlike the football version of a “spotkick” hockey uses a running format where the attacker has 8 seconds to beat the goalkeeper with tricks and dribbles.
The 3rd/4th game between Kenya and Ghana was a little one-sided in favour of Ghana. After pushing Egypt so close, it was quite refreshing to see they had not lost their focus and continued on to dominate the Kenyans and take the Bronze.
In the ladies section, 3rd/4th was a tight affair between Namibia and Kenya. After 70 minutes the scores were still level at 0 -0 and the officials decided to let them play extra time. A golden goal would end the game with only a few minutes played in the first period of extra time. Namibia broke Kenyan hearts with a cracking goal from open play.
The ladies final between Ghana and South Africa saw a repeat of the round robin result. South Africa running away 4 – 0 without much fuss or threat on their own goal. A thoroughly dominating performance in the week long tournament.