THE HAGUE: The German team began their Rabobank Hockey World Cup campaign in an efficient, if slightly underwhelming fashion as they put four goals past South Africa here on Sunday. The match against 12th-ranked South Africa saw the reigning Olympic champions and second-ranked team begin at a steady pace, building patterns of play and feeling their way into the game. In contrast, South Africa had the better of the opening salvos and Clinton Panther was unfortunate not to get a result from his first time strike, which called Nicolas Jacobi into early action.
Germany began to ramp up the pressure towards the middle of the first half as first Christopher Zeller and then Mats Grambusch made forays into the South African circle. Erasmus Pieterse in the South Africa goal was the difference between a rout and a respectable defeat as he was called into action again and again. A rising shot from Florian Fuchs, another from Oliver Korn and a series of three penalty corners all saw Pieterse at his very best.
The deadlock was broken when Timothy Drummond fouled Benjamin Weiss in the circle and Zeller (27’) stepped up to put the ball away. This signalled the start of a period of German domination. For the remainder of the half, the German team were happy to play the ball around, forcing the South Africans to chase shadows. The constant and patient German movement eventually opened up an opportunity and Thilo Stralkowski was able to capitalise with a superb shot from the right-hand side of the pitch with just seconds left in the half.
Germany added two more goals in the second half, despite some staunch defending from ‘the Lads’ and Pieterse in particular. The first came from the industrious Grambusch (56’), whose tireless running had been at the heart of this German victory. He latched onto a cross from Martin Zicker to fire the ball home. The fourth and final German goal came after some fabulous play by Christopher Ruhr, who jinked his way past three defenders before shooting. Captain Oliver (59’) was able to get the final touch and offer the coup de grace.
Netherlands down Argentina 3-1: The Kyocera Stadium turned orange as 15,000 people turned up to cheer the home team in their opening match against Argentina. And the Oranje did not disappoint as they played hockey that was both spectacular and stylish to win their opener 3-1. And Argentina added their own substantial skill and flair to the occasion, keeping the Dutch attack at bay for periods of the game and forcing goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann to make saves from the top drawer of goalkeeping.
In a dramatic opening five minutes, Rogier Hofman and Valentin Verga both came close to scoring as they fired shots inches past Juan Vivaldi’s goal, but Argentina dug deep and it was not until the 26th minute that the home side scored the breakthrough goal. It came when Seve van Ass delivered a pacy ball into the Argentine circle and Verga (26) got the slightest of touches. Argentina asked for a referral but the goal stood, and the volume in the stadium rose.
Just minutes later Guillermo Schickendantz was unlucky not to get Argentina straight back into the game when he just missed a tap-in following a rebounded penalty corner, but the goal seemed to have woken Carlos Retegui’s men and they began to pile their own pressure onto the Netherlands circle. This paid off when Gonzalo Peillat (33) equalised from a penalty corner just before half time. In the second half, an early goal for the Netherlands - a trademark Mink van Weerden drag flick - gave the third-ranked team the momentum. Van Weerden’s shot thundering past Vivaldi with just five minutes of the second half gone. Although Argentina counter-attacked quickly, Stockmann was in fine form as he dived full-length to deny the second equaliser. Matias Rey was a rock at the heart of the Argentine defence, but even he was not equal to the blistering speed of Verga and the cracking finish of Rogier Hofman (50) for the Netherland’s third goal.
Skipper Misbahul Haq and his charges will be enjoying an upper hand and psychological edge when ...