27 June 2019

Namibia: Last Chance At AFCON for Hockey Women

Namibia's women's hockey team have one more chance of qualifying for next year's Olympic Games despite finishing last at the FIH Women's Series Finals in Valencia this week.

Namibia lost their final match 2-1 to Thailand on Tuesday in the seventh place play-of, after losing all three their group matches.

Namibia, however, have one more chance at the African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers in South Africa in August when the continental champions will gain a ticket to the 2020 Olympic Games.

In Valencia, Namibia suffered heavy defeats in their group matches, going down 7-0 to Belarus, 10-1 to Spain and 17-0 to Canada, but gave a much better performance against Thailand on Tuesday, and with a bit of luck could have won the match.

Namibia applied the early pressure after some attacks by Maggy Mengo, Kiana Cormack and Tara Myburgh, while Cormack went narrowly wide with a back stick shot from a Myburgh cross.

Thailand, however, regained the initiative and took the lead after 10 minutes when their captain Tikhamporn Sakulpithak broke away from her marker to score from close range.

Namibia upped the tempo in the second chukka with Cormack and Joane van Rooyen putting in some strong attacks, but their final passes went astray. Namibia also won two short corners after good work by Mengo, but Thailand's defence held out and they increased their lead when an unmarked Sakulpithak scored her second goal just before half time.

Namibia continued to create chances in the third chukka with Dure Boshoff shining down the right wing, while Tara Myburgh came close when her deflection from a cross went narrowly wide of the goals.

Namibia's pressure finally paid off at the start of the final chukka when Van Rooyen sent in a cross and Kiana Cormack scored at the far post.

The momentum swayed to and fro as both teams gave it their all in the final chukka, but Namibian keeper Petro Stoffberg kept Thailand at bay with some fine saves, while at the other end, Namibia could not round off their chances, as Thailand held on for the win.

Namibia's coach Erwin Handura said he would comment on the team's performances on their return to Namibia.

Canada and Spain, meanwhile, qualified for the semifinals after finishing first and second in Pool B.

The 21st ranked Canada was the big surprise of the tournament, drawing 1-1 against the seventh ranked Spain, while beating the 20th ranked Belarus 8-2.

Pool B went according to rankings with the 15th ranked South Africa finishing on top, and the 17th ranked Italy second.

South Africa were due to play Spain in the semifinals yesterday, with Canada due to play Italy in the other semifinal.

Overall, Namibia's results were disappointing, especially after their fine performances against South Africa in a warm-up tournament in Johannesburg in May.

Then, Namibia narrowly lost the first two tests 1-0 and 2-0, before a fatigued team lost 8-0 in the third test.

After South Africa's success in Spain, one would have expected better results from Namibia, but if they can raise their game at Afcon to the level they displayed in Johannesburg, they still stand a chance of qualifying for the Olympics.


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