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Sahara Champions Challenge Day 2: Argentina struggle, Belgians win in style
02 Apr 2005 21:09

Day 2 of the Sahara Champions Challenge started off with a big surprise as South Africa got on the scoreboard with less than a minute on the clock, stunning their Argentine opponents. The Southamericans were clearly caught on the wrong foot, allowing South Africa to take the very early lead by intercepting a pass in midfield and going on to win a penalty corner that they converted. Argentina seemed distraught and fought hard to recover, while South Africa from the start of the match showed the determination and energy that it took them an entire match to develop on Day 1.

Overall, Argentina were the better side in the first half but remained unable to get on the scoreboard, South Africa holding on to its lead into the second half. But with a double hit shortly after the break through Oscaris and Vila, Jorge Ruiz’s players took charge of the match, subsequently extending their lead to three goals by another two from Riccardi and Hourquebie. South Africa twice had an advantage in numbers as Almada and Paredes were sent to the sin bin, and were able to make use of this once, scoring their second goal, but eventually, time ran out.

The Argentines have sweated and struggled for this victory, certainly more so than the scoreline suggests, and the second defeat in as many days will be a big disappointment for South Africa who put forward a much improved performance compared to yesterday but still had to succumb to the Southamericans who have today confirmed their role as candidates for promotion to the Champions Trophy. Still, in the press conference following the game, Argentine coach Jorge Ruiz got visibly upset at the notion of his team being among the tournament favorites. 'Who says that? We are not favorites. We are only here to play the best hockey we can play' he said.

The other tournament favorites Korea had little difficulty winning three points from their match against England. During the first half, the Brits held up very well, keeping up with the Koreans powerful attacking game to restrict the Asians to a 1-0 lead at halftime. Then the hooter went with Hawes on the ground writhing in pain, having sustained an ankle injury. Hawes did not return for the second half, a major setback for his team as they have thus lost one of their most experienced players and their first choice PC flicker. On the Korean side, Jung Seon Lee contributed 3 goals to the 5-2 final result and put himself in the undisputed lead in the list of scorers with his now total 5 goals in this event so far.

The day ended with another admirable and inspiring appearance by the Belgian team, who left hosts Egypt without a chance. Largely thanks to their fabulous penalty corner conversion record – seven out of nine in this event so far – they put 7 goals past Gerhard Rach’s team without allowing a single one. The Belgians were clearly the superior side in this encounter, technically as well as in terms of discipline and motivation. Egypt rarely found a way to break through the Belgian ranks, and no remedy to contain the Belgian offense. Rach’s boys were truly helpless today in the face of the motivation and spirited performance of Giles Bonnet’s 'men in black' who with today’s match have claimed the top of the table for the second day in a row.

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