Belgium survives shootout; South Africa falls to India's PC
Sandeep Singh almost single-handedly destroyed South Africa’s chances of booking their place at the London Olympics after firing in two second-half trademark penalty corner drag flicks in a pulsating contest played in searing heat at the Randpark Hockey Stadium. The result left the home side needing to travel to Japan in April to take part in an Olympic qualifying tournament.
India, the eight-times Olympic champions, twice came from behind to level at 2-2 before seizing the initiative after the interval scoring twice in a decisive six minute spell mid-way through the half to go 4-2 up. Roared on by a huge partisan crowd South Africa responded superbly, dominating possession and throwing everything at their opponents to try and reduce the deficit but India’s defence held firm.
At the heart of India’s defence is the towering figure of 25-year-old Sandeep who said he was delighted his side had qualified for the final, remaining on course to try and regain a place at the Champions Trophy for the first time since 2005.
Sandeep was quick to praise South Africa, a side he thought had improved immensely. He added: “They were much tougher than in the pool match when we won 7-4 and we rate them as a very good team. They dominated the first-half but once we were behind we concentrated on a more attacking style and counter-attacking. We forced the turnovers and created the chances.”
Belgium kept alive their hopes of making their first ever appearance at the Champions Trophy with a dramatic 3-2 victory over Argentina in a shoot-out after the sides were locked at 2-2 after extra-time.
The hero for the European side was 27-year-old Jerome Dekeyser who converted the winning penalty stroke after being brought down by Argentina’s goalkeeper. With the sides level at 2-2 in the shoot-out Dekeyser knew he had to score to put his team through to the final.
“My team mates were really supportive and I tried to be relaxed” he said. “I’ve never been involved in one before but I cleared my mind and decided to go for it.”
Waiting to take the penalty stroke following the goalkeeper’s foul, the striker from Braxgata club in Boom admitted he was very hesitant saying he was well aware how crucial it was: ”I just picked my spot and hit it as hard as I could.”
After the Pan-American champions had taken a 2-0 lead inside thirty two minutes, Belgium fought back to equalise within quarter of an hour after the break to set up a tense second half. In a frenzied period of extra-time both sides pushed forward desperately searching for the winner only for the contest to be decided by a shoot-out for only the second time in a major men’s tournament.
Dekeyser didn’t think Belgium had played their best game adding:” It’s always tough playing a semi-final and they are an excellent team.”
The only dampner on Belgium’s triumph was the injury suffered by the goalkeeper David van Rysselberghe who dislocated his shoulder in the shoot-out action. Belgium’s medical staff succeeded in putting it back and he bravely played on. However, his chances of playing in Sunday’s final will be assessed overnight.Back