Newly crowned World Young Player of the Year Anna Flanagan’s flick on second half penalty corner against South Africa turned out to be decisive in the Hockeyroos’ 1-0 victory in the World Cup qualifying campaign in London i.e. Round 3 of Hockey World League.
Highlights of Hockeyroos vs South Africa
With this 1-0 win, the Hockeyroos remain unbeaten at the Investec World League following victory over Spain and a draw with England in their opening two matches and sets Australia up well going into the quarter-final round.
Despite the narrow margin, the Australians enjoyed the best of the match with Jodie Schulz, Emily Smith and Ashleigh Nelson all threatening the goal of Vuyisanani Mangisa, who was in fine form for the South Africans.
Head Coach Adam Commens said he was impressed with how his side managed the game, calling it a “solid performance all round”, adding, “I’m really pleased with the performance. South Africa is a team that has caused us problems in the past couple of years; they’re a really experienced side and I’m pleased we executed our penalty corner to score. It was a reasonably even game but I thought we controlled it well. The only moments South Africa caused us problems were when we were down to ten players with green and yellow cards.”
The first half finished goalless despite both sides creating chances. Hockeyroo Ashleigh Nelson (WA) found her break behind the defence smothered by South Africa goalkeeper Mangisa and Casey Eastham (NSW) narrowly failed to connect with a Georgie Parker (SA) cross from the left. Flanagan (ACT), who had earlier been presented with her FIH World Young Player of the Year Award, then saw her low flick from a 22nd minute penalty corner well saved by the goalkeeper. For their part, South Africa failed to take full advantage of an early penalty corner while a tame shot was kept out easily enough by Rachael Lynch (VIC) in the Australian goal.
The breakthrough came shortly after half time as the Hockeyroos turned defence into attack, countering from a South African penalty corner to win one of their own from which Jodie Schulz’s effort was well saved. A second consecutive corner award came moments later and up stepped Flanagan to flick the ball high into the goal to score what would be the decisive goal of the match.
Australia survived a scare midway through the second half when the vastly experienced South African Pietie Coetzee saw her penalty corner cannon back off the base of the post but that was to be it for South African chances. With the match progressing, the Hockeyroos pressed their opponents high up the pitch, limiting their creativity with Schulz even earning a late penalty corner following excellent individual play. Flanagan’s resulting shot was saved.
The result means that the Hockeyroos are certain to finish in one of the top two spots in Pool B and will face either USA or Italy in the quarter final. Where exactly they finish depends on the outcome of the remaining England v Spain fixture. Anything less than a three goal win for England and Australia will top the pool, facing off against USA in the quarter finals. Finishing second in Pool B would set up a match against Italy.
In the other pool of the tournament, victories for Argentina and China assured them of the top two positions while Italy finished third and USA fourth.
To qualify automatically for the 2014 World Cup in The Hague, the Hockeyroos must finish in the top three of the Investec World League tournament.