Jun 8, 2024

France Triumphs Over South Africa in FIH Pro League Semi-Final Thriller

South Africa faced France in the semi-final of the FIH Pro League on Saturday in Poland. The South Africans had reached the semi-final with superb defensive efforts, while France showcased their regular attacking prowess. Both teams, having previously participated in the FIH Pro League, demonstrated their high status in world hockey.

The first half was incredibly tight, with France, ranked four places above South Africa in the world rankings, creating more circle entries and shots on goal. The South African defense remained resolute, and there was little to separate the two teams, who will meet again in the pool stages of the Olympic Games in Paris.

Early in the second quarter, France won a penalty corner but wasted the chance. Mustapha Cassiem took a quick free hit, setting Tevin Kok free on the left. The South African striker ran through superbly before squaring for Bili Ntuli, who finished his third goal of the tournament. It was an incredible sweeping move that left the French bamboozled and gave the African champions the lead.

France won four more penalty corners over the remainder of the second and third quarters, all superbly defended by South African first-wave runners Jacques van Tonder and Keenan Horne, who even took a few hits for their efforts. With 15 minutes remaining, the onus was on France to produce something special to win the game.

South Africa had few opportunities going forward but showed tremendous resilience and concentration in the defensive quarter, offering France very few quality opportunities. However, France found an equalizer with 6 minutes remaining through a deft deflection

As the clock ran out, France had most of the possession, and South Africa received a double card, setting up a nervy finish. Despite an incredible effort, France scored from a multi-awarded penalty corner with 28 seconds remaining in the game.

It was an incredible effort from the South Africans, who will now prepare for a bronze medal battle on Sunday against Pakistan or New Zealand.

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