Women’s hockey: SA, NZ eye semi-final spot

By Anand Philar, IANS
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

NEW DELHI - South Africa (pool A) and New Zealand (pool B) emerged early front-runners for semi-final spots in the women’s hockey competition of the 19th Commonwealth Games with two victories apiece.

The South Africans, bolstered by the return of their star player Pietie Coetzee after a five-year self-imposed break from international hockey, won a crucial game against Scotland 2-1 on Tuesday. They had swamped Trinidad and Tobago 12-0 in their opening game.

“Pietie’s return has obviously made a huge difference to the team. She brings a lot of experience with her,” said coach Michel van den Heuchel after the Scotland game in which Coetzee scored the second goal following a strike by Kelly Madsen.

New Zealand topped pool B after defeating Malaysia 5-0 earlier in the day, overcoming initial resistance that kept them at bay until the 33rd minute.

The Kiwis, who had beaten Wales 5-1 in their opening fixture, proved too strong for the Malaysians who simply faded from the contest after conceding the first goal.

In the other two matches of the day, gold medal favourites England and Australia opened their campaign in style with big victories over Wales and Trinidad and Tobago, respectively.

England, the highest ranked team in women’s competition and bronze medalists at last month’s World Cup in Rosario, Argentina, ousted Wales 4-1 with the experienced Crista Cullen notching a hat-trick.

The Aussies, who finished fifth in the World Cup, had it easy against the Caribbean outfit that was again left clueless at this level of competition as they let in 11 goals without reply to crash to their second defeat.

Both England and Australia, however, hedged their bets over reaching the medal rounds, preferring to take one game at a time.

“There are at least five to six teams capable of winning the tournament and our focus is on the next game,” said Australian team coach Frank Murray who is to retire on conclusion of the competition.

Filed under: Commonwealth Games, Hockey

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