The historic FIH indoor Hockey World Cup, presented by SPAR, got started at the Heartfelt Arena in South Africa. An almost capacity crowd created a cauldron of noise as the South Africans and Austrians locked horns at a World Cup for the first time since 2007.
It was the SPAR South African Women who got the game off to a raucous start and rewarded for their efforts with an opening goal from captain Jess O’Connor. Playing in her 125th test cap the South African captain fired home from the Penalty Corner to send the crowd into a frenzy.
The hosts had a couple of half chances but were disappointed that they couldn’t add to the scoreline as the Europeans gained in confidence and produced a spirited fightback to level before the half time break. A penalty corner was fired home from a tight angle by Buchta and the scores were level at the break.
Marta Laginja gave the Austrians the lead in the game in the 25th minute with a penalty corner goal. Her first shot was well saved by Cheree Greyvenstein before the second nestled its way into the back of the net on the far post.
But the South Africans showed character, fighting back to pull level through a piece of brilliance from Kayla de Waal. Her individual run saw the keeper sent the wrong way before her finish lifted the roof off the Heartfelt Arena.
Despite their best efforts the South Africans were trailing again. Laginja fired in another blistering strike and the disappointment was audible in the crowd with two minutes remaining in the game. The South Africans though continued to fight and thought they had levelled through Kayla de Waal. Unfortunately, the ball had been lifted and the goal was rightfully chalked off.
South Africa were given the golden opportunity to level with a penalty stroke awarded after the hooter. Tegan Fourie’s shot was strong but was brilliantly saved to secure a victory for the Austrians and disappointment for the South Africans.