FIH Champions Challenge 1 2011
Johannesburg, South Africa - November 26 - 4, 2011


Belgium and Argentina show their class

November 27, 2011
Both teams lead their groups at Champions Challenge 1

The Pan-American champions once again pulled rank against their old rivals, twice coming from behind to clinch a narrow victory. The result was sealed through second-half penalty corner strikes by Lucas Vila and Pedro Ibarra although Canada did earn two late set pieces but failed to capitalise.

An obviously relieved Argentina coach Pablo Lombi said he was very happy with the win adding: “We played much better than in our first game. We played at a faster pace, had more possession and scored at the right times.”

Only a heroic display by David Carter in Canada’s goal prevented the South Americans from rattling up an even more emphatic total.

One Canadian who could afford to celebrate a personal milestone in the match was 18-year-old Gabriel Ho-Garcia who shot his side ahead in the 20th minute with a diving deflection to open his international account in only his second appearance in his country’s colours.

Japan were left licking their wounds after letting their opponents back in to the match. Leading 2-0 at half-time, Japan will look back on squandering a succession of first-half chances to take the game beyond their opponents.

If you blinked you missed Japan’s lightning start as they roared in to a 2-0 lead inside nine minutes. However, unable to convert their numerous scoring opportunities Malaysia hit back to reduce the deficit late in the second-half before netting the equaliser two minutes from time.

HRH the Prince of Pahang said it had been a nerve-wracking second-half supporting Malaysia, adding: “I was glad to see their tenacity and determination to set up the draw. I think they were a bit lucky to get the result but it’s great for their morale and confidence.”

Belgium showed why they are already qualified for London 2012 when they featured in a ten-goal thriller against opponents who refused to lie down and accept defeat. A double-figure scoreline for the Belgians appeared a strong possibility after the led 4-1 at the break but they were forced to dig deep in the second-half.

The highlight was four goals for penalty corner ace Tom Boon and two goals from open play after the interval by Waldemar Rataj to keep Poland in the contest.

Belgium’s coach Colin Batch admitted he was disappointed with some aspects of his team’s play but thought they transferred the ball efficiently as well as regaining possession and counter-attacking effectively.

He added: “But once we had a decent lead the players tried to push forward too much and forgot their structure. And we struggled with the aerial balls Poland threw at us.”

It was definitely a case of saving the best until last as the hosts and the eight-times former Olympic champions turned on the style in front of the biggest crowd of the day. In the most entertaining contest of the day the result remained in the balance in to the final quarter with South Africa continually fighting their way back in to the match.

Having clawed their way back from 4-2 to level at 4-4, South Africa were dealt a bitter blow when India responded with three goals in as many minutes to go 7-4 up and take the game beyond the home team.

Gareth Carr, the South Africa defender, is hopeful of returning to the fray on Tuesday after receiving fourteen stitches in two head wounds when he was hit by an Indian stick.


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