SPAR South Africa vs. Croatia
After a successful opening day SPAR South Africa was presented with, on paper, their hardest test of the group stages taking on the hosts and defending champions Croatia. Croatia was clearly out to stamp their early authority on the game and in truth the SPAR South Africa ladies were a little slow in starting.
However, after four minutes of pressure from Croatia, it was the South Africans who had the best chance to score when Celia Evans fired wide. It had been immense game management from the African ladies as they soaked up the pressure and then turned up the heat in fantastic fashion. That African heat was starting to break through the Croatian cold, but it was only after 17 minutes that the deadlock was finally broken. Jessica O’Connor broke through the back and played the perfect pass to Kelly Reed who waited for the keeper to advance before setting up Cindy Hack to score.
It was less than a minute later and the Croatian keeper was picking the ball out the net again, this time Reed kept hold of the ball and made it 2-0, a score that would remain until halftime.
The start of the second half would have seen coach Lennie Botha well impressed as the ladies maintain the pre-halftime pressure and Cindy Hack quickly made it 3-0, Kelly Reed made it 4-0 and with a bit of time left in the game, it was 5-0 as Hack completed her hat-trick.
There was still time for Cheree Greyvenstein to pull off a superb double save straight off the bench and offer themselves an opportunity to preserve the clean sheet, which the team duly did. Top spot a near certainty already with a game remaining in the group stage.
After the game Kelly Reed shared her thoughts:
“We started the game a bit poorly and we were trying to force it a bit. We settled into the game and then started scoring some great goals. I think that we have been playing together for a long time and you can see that on the court. We have a good attacking mindset and that’s enjoyable to play in a team like that!”
SPAR South Africa vs. Slovenia
Having seen Croatia surprisingly lose to Slovakia just before the game started, SPAR South Africa were well aware that top spot was merely a formality. They then took apart a Slovenian side with the kind of efficiency that would have my accounting lecturer beaming. The Slovenians were without their first choice keeper due to illness, but the South Africans knew the season of giving was long gone. Instead what ensued was 40 minutes of target practice and 21 goals (The highest score at a Hockey World Cup is 19-1). Kara Botes and Celia Evans were devastating in their efficiency and seven different scorers put goals away for the South Africans in the most one-sided display.
And so one day and two matches remain. The SPAR South Africa side has been immense so far and need to carry it one step further. They play in the semi-final at 11:20 with a potential final at 15:20.
Croatia Cup Results
South Africa 5 – 0 Croatia
Slovakia 3 – 2 Croatia
South Africa 21 – 0 Slovenia