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Sahara Champions Challenge Day 4: Koreans book berth in final
07 Apr 2005 16:22

The second but last day of pool matches at the Sahara Champions Challenge in Alexandria started off with the clash of the two European teams in this event, Belgium and England, the latter severely handicapped by team captain Brett Garrard and Ben Hawes being sidelined because of injuries. Yet it was England who got on the scoreboard first and less than three minutes later extended their lead to two goals with James Tindall and Matt Daly converting two penalty corners in the 20th and 23rd minute.

Belgium came closer before the break with the first goal in the 31st minute, then went on to score the equalizer in the second half, both their goals once again scored by their penalty corner battery, with Jean-Philippe Brulé adding 2 for his total tally to reach 7 goals for a solid second place in the ranking of goalscorers, second only to Korean Jung Seon Lee who has scored an impressive 9 goals in 4 matches.

With this tie, Belgium keep the possibility of making it into the tournament’s final alive – with a victory, they can snatch the berth away from Argentina when the two teams clash on Friday. England also benefits from raking up one point from this tie, as it improves their starting position for Friday’s game against South Africa: the Brits need only a tie to secure their place in the match for Bronze, while South Africa need to win to escape the match for fifth place. Despite this win-win situation both teams will probably feel like they had the opportunity to win and could have done better.

In the subsequent match, Korea took on South Africa to book their place in the game for promotion to the Champions Trophy: with three points from this encounter, Korea would be a certain finalist. And win they did today, with the final result of 3-0 belying the course of the game in which Korea did not exert themselves and South Africa played but failed in the deciding moments – they had a number of scoring opportunities, including 5 penalty corners, but did not manage to make use of any of them.

The first two matches of the day also saw 4 yellow cards, as much as the first three days of this disciplined event all together, with Jon Brown and Andy West from England and Nam Yong Lee and Jung Seon Lee of Korea being the players to be sent to the sin-bin.

The day ended with hosts Egypt playing Argentina. The Southamericans were always certain to win this encounter without difficulty, evidenced early by their line-up with veterans Oscaris and Cammareri in the stands, while for the first time, all four youngsters – Pedro Ibarra, Tomas Argento, Lucas Rey, and Facundo Callioni – got to play in the same match. Unfortunately, the Argentines feeling safe in their superiority rendered the game rather uninteresting as they never exhibited their best game but listlessly contented themselves with getting the 70 minutes over with.

Egypt on the other hand could not be accused of not trying but today found themselves incapable of seriously challenging the Argentinean side who had the advantage of more experience and better technical skills. They had few opportunities and managed no more than a consolation goal through Amr El Sayed. With the hosts’ disappointment at their team’s dismal performance already growing by the minute, their most difficult match is yet to come: Friday’s encounter with Korea might well turn into a slaughtering. But coach Gerhard Rach is thinking ahead already: 'The important thing would be to win the last game on Saturday' he said after the match.

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