South Africa began their FIH Junior World Cup 2023 quest in earnest on Tuesday in Malaysia when they took on the powerhouse of Junior World Hockey Germany. The Germans, winners of a medal in every tournament except one of the previous 12 editions are one of the favourites for the tournament and likely to be in the discussion at the business end of the tournament. For South Africa it’s a 6th appearance looking to consolidate the 9th place finish two years ago in India.
The two sides met a month ago at the Sultan of Johor Cup with Germany winning on that occasion.
The Germans won an early penalty corner after a great foraging run. They were rewarded with a goal as the shot from Glanders looked to be heading slightly wide before it caught the stick of Fawaaz Kahder and wrong footed the defensive duo in the goal. Well, that goal may have been fortuitous, there was nothing fortuitous about the second one as Hasbach was pressed tight in the circle but produced a wonderful dink into the on running Sperling who finished brilliantly.
Before the end of the quarter the South Africans had a shot brilliantly saved before Virissimo himself produced and outstanding save to head to the first interval at 0-2.
South Africa pulled a goal back in the 26th minute. Lerou Dithakanyane’s shot was off target, but David Tshebi reacted instinctively and fired home through the legs of the German keeper, the South Africans reacted with immense joy, but it was a joy short lived. Holderman reacted quickly to a defensive lapse from South Africa less than 60 seconds later to storm into the circle and fire home to restore the two-goal lead at the half time break.
Jayden Brooker pulled back one goal with a rocket from a penalty corner, but South Africa gave away a penalty stroke with a poor challenge to allow the Germans to re-establish a two-goal lead.
South Africa produced a grandstand finish to the game when a superb team goal was finished off by Hans Neethling to set up a frenetic final five minutes. Such was the South African belief that they pulled their keeper off to sneak the draw, but it ultimately proved costly as Germany capitalized by scoring into the empty goal sealing the game 5-3.
The South Africans will be back in action against Egypt on Wednesday in a repeat of the 2023 Junior African Cup final.