South Africa and France renewed their rivalry in their first ever FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup encounter in Bhubaneswar this morning. The two teams were the invited FIH Pro League participants in 2022 and played a thrilling group match in the FIH Hockey Nations Cup in Potchefstroom.
South Africa had big hopes for the game but like their encounter in Potchefstroom the South Africans would have to chase the game as they trailed to an early Victor Charlet goal from a penalty corner.
Dayaan Cassiem came close with a quick-fire reverse stick shot but it was narrowly over the top of the goal as France served a green card suspension. France themselves came close with a quick interchange but found the connection lacking.
South Africa used their video referral right at the end of the first quarter as a clear foot was missed. They won the penalty corner and immediately fired home through Connor Beauchamp to level matters.
Early in the second quarter a melee in the circle looked like it would inevitably result in a goal for the South Africans, but Thieffry was able to deny the African Champions and the score remained level. The half chances were starting to pop up for South Africa, but they weren’t yet creating shots on goal. Captain Dayaan Cassiem did test the French keeper after a good one-two with Lembethe, but shot was just too close to the shot stopper.
France created their first moment of danger in the second quarter through Goyet who was checked by Eustice and a penalty corner was awarded. The deflection was sought by the Europeans, but the execution was lacking, and it was a reprise for the men in Green and gold.
The second half continued the titanic arm wrestle between the two sides with both creating opportunities but both keepers doing incredibly well. Gowan Jones was an outstanding performer once again for South Africa. Both teams lost their referrals and set up a grandstand finish in front of a wonderful crowd.
South Africa created chances on the counterattack with Sam Mvimbi’s blistering strike the best of the lot. But South Africa were punished by a moment of quality from Charlet. A wonderful penalty corner gave the Europeans the lead with just a few minutes left.
The South Africans immediately withdrew their keeper and stormed forward looking for an equalizer. They were rewarded with two penalty corners, but both were brilliantly charged down and the opportunity was gone. France sealing a 2-1 win and, in the process, likely to have sealed a spot in the crossovers.