An enthralling encounter pitted the exciting counter-attacking skills of the South Africans against the excellent technique, organisation and attacking prowess of their European opponents. In the end, a hugely impressive and controlled Germany display overcame the Springboks to set up a mouth-watering clash with hosts Great Britain tomorrow.
The first half was an absorbing contest, which, whilst lacking in clear cut chances had not shortage of top class skill and technique. Shelley Russell and Marsha Marescia showed terrific pace and technical ability as they threatened the German goal, but found the back three, and in particular the excellent Nina Hasselmann to be well organised and composed under pressure.
Germany earned the first penalty corner of the match; however a breakdown of communication meant the chance was wasted and allowed South Africa to break. An excellent piece of defending from Julia Karwatzky held the attack up and the chance fizzled out.
With both sides’ thoughts seemingly turning to half time, South Africa went close with a penalty corner through Pietie Coetzee. Kristina Reynolds did superbly, not only in keeping the shot out, but in clearing it to safety. Almost a minute later Germany got their noses in front. Kristina Hillman engineered some space on the edge of the D and hit a reverse stick shot which Eileen Hoffman diverted past Mariette Rix in the South Africa goal.
Germany’s approach to the second half seemed to have a little more attacking purpose. They began to transfer the ball around the back quickly and broke out of defence with a more direct approach to goal. A flowing move involving Maike Stockel and Janine Beerman threatened to extend their lead but the diving Celine Wilde couldn’t quite reach the cross.
South Africa’s pace and skill on the break was still a huge concern for their opponents. They almost snatched an equaliser but Dirkie Chamberlain’s spectacular sliding deflection was well saved by Reynolds.
Shelley Russell was becoming more of an influence on the game, her excellent defensive work, coupled with her bursting forward runs from deep were starting to stretch the game. South Africa’s renewed attacking intent allowed them to win another penalty corner, but yet again Coetzee was kept out by Reynolds.
With gaps starting to appear, Germany could, and probably should have scored again. Some excellent work in the D by Stockel to steal possession was followed by Wilde’s cross to the far post; however Janine Beermann was unable to apply the finish.
Roared on by a pocket of partisan supporters, the Springboks continued to fight for an equaliser. However, Germany’s composure and organisation won out as they methodically kept the ball and ran the clock down to claim the win.
German coach Michael Behrmann was reserved in the press conference saying “We have had 3 weeks off where we have not been together as a group, and i think that showed. We defended very well, and in the end won the match which is very important in competitions like these.”
South Africa captain Marsha Marescia was upbeat, despite her obvious disappointment at the result. When asked how they coped with the different test posed by Germany compared with Great Britain, she said: “Yes we had to make changes to our approach. However i don’t feel today was about us failing to break them down, but more us running out of steam. We’ve had a tough few weeks training and had a very hard game yesterday, so it is hard to keep yourselves at those levels of performance, the next day.”
South Africa must now wait and see the outcome of tomorrow’s Great Britain vs. Germany clash before they know their next game in the competition.