South Africa Men’s Hockey team crowned Champions of the 2022 Men’s Africa Cup of Nations Hockey tournament
Dragflick Newsdesk : South Africa and Egypt faced off in the African Cup of Nations for the 6th consecutive time in Accra tonight. Both teams were desperate to secure qualification to the FIH Hockey World Cup, while for the South Africans a victory also offered a confirmed top 10 spot in the World Rankings ahead of the FIH Pro League.
South Africa earned the first shot of the final when Brad Sherwood and Bili Ntuli combined but it was a routine save for Farahat Shehata. Despite some good possession from the Egyptians, it was the South Africans who looked more likely to score and they did exactly that towards the end of the opening quarter. Matt Guise-Brown was given two Penalty corners and the finish on the second left no doubt as it smashed into the side net. It would be the last significant action of the opening quarter as South Africa led 1-0 at the first interval.
South Africa won the first penalty corner of the second quarter two minutes in, when a foot was found in the circle. Shehata made a good save, but the lifted ball created danger and South Africa were awarded a second bite at the cherry. A second bite would become a third bite as a foot was hit in the charge down. But Egypt would survive, and the opportunity was missed.
The South Africans were made to rue those misses as Egypt pulled level with a moment of magic from Ziad Adel who made the perfect run in between Le-Neal Jackson and Gowan Jones and finished it off superbly. With Egypt on the front foot, they won a penalty corner shortly after the equaliser. Tim Drummond on the post showed why he is so highly regarded in that position and denied the Egyptians superbly. The half time break saw the team’s level, 30 minutes remaining to decide the tournament.
South Africa came out blazing and almost caught the Egyptians napping immediately after the break, but good rear-guard scrambling kept the South Africans at bay. Bili Ntuli went on a superb run into the D but his cut back was unable to pick up a team mate, while Egypt failed to collect with a search cross into the circle. The tension could be cut with a spoon!
That tension defined the third quarter somewhat as the two sides played somewhat within themselves for large portions, waiting for the perfect gap while making sure they didn’t let their opposition in. South Africa got the first big opportunity with a penalty corner, but the variation was sent wide as both sides continued to search for the go-ahead goal. Ill discipline from the Egyptians then awarded the South Africans another penalty corner but a bobbled ball meant the chance went astray. There would be no goal in the quarter, and it would be down to a final 15 minutes to decide the champions.
South Africa won their 8th penalty corner at the start of the fourth quarter and a brilliant variation left the Egyptians surprised, but the shot fired narrowly wide, and the Egyptian blushes were spared. Bili Ntuli then produced a moment of magic to create an opportunity but Shehata made a very important save to keep the scores level.
Both sides were upping the tempo looking for a massive goal to go ahead. Both sides had several circle entries but both sides saw their opportunities denied again and again. As the clock headed down to zero, it was down to a penalty shootout to decide the title for the first time since 2005.
In the shootout it was Gowan Jones who starred, saving three of the four penalties to leave young Brad Sherwood with the opportunity to win it for his country, a moment that the Maritzburg College old boy would not turn down. Winner of the match, Champions of the continent and qualified for the FIH Hockey World Cup.