A super start from the Ghanaians to take an early lead was not enough as the South Africans surged to a wonderful come from behind victory to seal their 7th consecutive African Cup of Nations and have confirmed their qualification for the FIH Hockey World Cup as a result.
In front of a passionate home crowd, South Africa had the first opportunity of the final after sustained pressure resulted in a penalty corner. Ghana was crowing in front of a large home crowd and rewarded their fans with a penalty corner. The shot came back off the post before a goal-line melee resulted in a penalty stroke for Ghana. Despite a superb diving save from Phumelela Mbande the ball bundled in off the post and gave the hosts an early lead! Elizabeth Opuku netting her fifth of the tournament in her 51st test for her country. Despite great defensive efforts by the hosts, South Africa pulled level with Charne Maddocks firing in a shot that was deflected in by the defender leaving Azumah no chance in goals.
Ghana was playing spoil superbly in the middle of the park and were the closest to breaking the deadlock when Martha Safoa created space but fired wide, when she probably would have felt that she could have hit the target at least. However South Africa did create the next chance, but it was well saved by Azumah before South Africa were awarded a penalty corner. From the Quanita Bobbs shot Azumah saved but unfortunately for Ghana Kristen Paton was the only player awake and finished calmly to give the defending champions the lead for the first time.
It was almost a lead that they doubled just a minute later when Marizen Marais had a shot that was saved. The South Africans were getting the upper hand and starting to dominate in the middle of the park. But Ghana managed to withhold the pressure and created two of their own penalty corners before the break, without converting either. 2-1 at the break.
The second half had a great amount of tension about it, with umpires doing their best to keep players on the park. South Africa had two early penalty corners but were unable to take advantage of them, while exciting running from Nicky Veto looked like it could have resulted in something more, but Ghana was defending incredibly well. Despite a couple of cards being shown there was no further goal scoring activity and the third quarter finished without a change in the score line.
The game was eagerly waiting for a major spark moment, which Quanita Bobbs looked to create space in the middle of the park, but the South Africans weren’t finding the connections that they were hoping for. Ghana did fashion an opportunity for themselves six minutes in but Mbande made the save from the Koffi snapshot. A minute later a great ball into the circle was dying for a deflection but nobody was able to get the pivotal touch as the game remained on a knifes edge.
Ghana were awarded a penalty corner with 6 minutes remaining to the jubilation of the crowd. But yet again the big opportunity was wasted after a mis-trap. South Africa then went up the other side and were awarded a penalty corner. The shot from Stephanie Botha struck the Ghanaian defender on the line and it was a stroke for South Africa. Lilian du Plessis stood up and finished it superbly to put a firm green and gold hand on the trophy.
The goal scorer then had the chance to put the rubber stamp on it, but du Plessis fired it over the top. It wouldn’t matter though as the clock ran down and the South Africans were confirmed as the champions of Africa once again!
African Hockey Cup of Nations 2022 – Final Standings
- South Africa