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Sahara Champions Challenge Day 5: England and Argentina win deciders
09 Apr 2005 12:06

The last round of pool matches in Alexandria today started off with the encounter between England and South Africa who were battling for a place in the match for bronze with England needing no more than to draw to secure a berth in the match for 3rd/4th place whereas South Africa needed to win. England were fortunate to be able to field both their injured players, Ben Hawes and Brett Garrard, again and with the defence thus restored, they went into the game playing offensively from the start. Matt Daly singlehandedly gave England a 2-0 lead by the 8th minute but over time, South Africa found into the match and ended the notion of the looming walkover. The Africans played concentratedly and with a high degree of discipline and scored a first goal in the first half through Lyall Meyer.

In the second half, South Africa continued to put pressure on England, Their efforts stalled from minute 42, when John McInroy was yellow-carded and sidelined for 10 minutes but England could not make use of their advantage in numbers. However, shortly after McInroy’s return, South Africa scored the equalizer and were pushing for the elusive winning goal that would see them through to the better final ranking when Rob Moore broke through in a rare England attack to settle the question with a third goal for his team in the 64th minute. Time ran out for South Africa to see them meet Egypt in their final match of the tournament, the match for 5th/6th place.

Match 2 had Argentina and Belgium spar for a place in the final. Argentina had the easier task, needing a tie to go through while Belgium would prevail only with a win. In the first half, Argentina was the better team, Belgium playing well but not able to put Argentina in any real danger. With goals from veterans Almada and Lombi that were countered by a penalty stroke converted by Brulé, the halftime score was 2-1 for Argentina, soon to be extended to a 3-1 lead through a field goal by Matias Paredes.

As the second half wore on however, the balance shifted with Belgium becoming more aggressive and progressively increasing the pressure on their Southamerican counterparts. Argentina struggled to contain their opponents but could not keep them from working their way up from trailing Argentina by two goals to a 3-3 tie by the 67th minute. Argentina grew more defensive by the minute, stalling for time with one eye always on the clock, and once more, they were relieved by the hooter just when the match was about to slip from their hands. Argentina thus meet Korea in the final, while Belgium do battle with England for the bronze medal.

Coach Giles Bonnet still appears happy with his players' showing in a tournament that they slipped into at the last minute because of the withdrawal of New Zealand, saying that he was obviously content with the Belgian team's performance in this event and hoped to build on the performance here for future events, presumably referring first and foremost to the European Nations Cup later this year where berths for next year's World Cup Qualifier as well as one or two tickets to the World Cup itself are up for grabs. He also commented, "We're always great at creating chances but we can't convert them. We felt we were always in the game but we need to score more."

Meanwhile, the match of the day was the last game in which hosts Egypt faced tournament favorites Korea. While the end result suggests a rather easy game for tournament favorites Korea, Egypt in reality played exceptionally well, certainly their best match in this tournament so far, especially in the first half, and displayed a fantastic performance in defense, frustrating the Korean strikers with excellent positioning and incredible saves. Despite opportunities galore, Korea could not score more than two goals in the first half and nurtured the hopes of the Egyptian players and spectators that a surprise upset might just be possible.

After halftime, Egypt grew even stronger and had several good chances, one of which yielded the 1-2. But as the minutes ticked past, Egypt had growing difficulties in keeping up with Korea’s experience, patience and stamina as well as the frantic pace of the game, and while the Asians still found creating chances difficult, they used the ones they had wisely to move away goal by goal. The final result was 5-1, to which Jung Seon Lee had added another hattrick to his already 9 goals for the undisputed lead in the list of goalscorers.

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