England Junior Women’s team outbid South Africa in the 2021 Junior World Cup opener

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Dragflick Newsdesk : England made the perfect start to life in the Junior Women’s Hockey World Cup in South Africa with a 3-0 win over the hosts.

Goals from Lorna Mackenzie (2) and skipper Millie Giglio did the damage, as Simon Letchford’s side laid down a marker in Potchefstroom and took a first step towards progressing from Pool B in the process.

South Africa did create chances in the final quarter but England were defensively sound throughout, and may even have put the game to bed sooner had they been more clinical in front of goal.

They now face Ireland on Saturday (6pm UK time) knowing a win will see them top the pool, although even a defeat could still see them through to the quarter-finals with the top two progressing, with Ukraine withdrawing from the tournament.

In the opening game of the tournament, England looked lively from push back, with a couple of early circle penetrations, but it was South Africa who had the game’s first big chance when Mila Welch had to make a smart save after good work from Kayla De Waal.

But that was the only real moment England’s goal was troubled in the opening half, with captain Giglio driving her team forward with some dynamic dribbling.

Becky Manton also went close to breaking the deadlock, but for all England’s good play they had to wait until the closing stages of the opening quarter to get the crucial first goal.

The first penalty corner of the contest was expertly delivered by Maddie Long, and Loughborough University‘s Mackenzie fired through the traffic to give England the deserved opening goal.

They were in control throughout the first 30 minutes, Georgie Gardens going close to making it two, while the tournament hosts struggled to turn their possession into circle penetrations or genuine chances.

South Africa did improve at the start of the third quarter, Bianca Wood wasting a good chance to halve the deficit with Letchford’s team momentarily struggling to get out of their own half.

But after weathering the South African storm, England got the break they needed to get some breathing space, once again with only seconds left of the quarter.

Another Long penalty corner caused chaos, with only a clear foul from the defending side stopping the ball hitting the net.

That gave Giglio the chance to cap a towering performance with a goal of her own, and she emphatically converted the resultant penalty stroke to put her side 2-0 up.

Manton then saw her effort only kept out by the crossbar with South Africa reeling.

But eventually England wrapped things up in fine style when Mackenzie was on hand again from a penalty corner to smash the ball beyond Mishka Ellis, to seal a fine 3-0 victory and a dream start for the juniors.

Although there is still a long way to go, hopes will now be high they can improve on their seventh-place finish from the last tournament in 2016.

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