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Namibia get to grips with World Cup

NAMIBIA gave a much better performance at the Indoor Hockey World Cup yesterday, with the women holding Canada to a 2-2 draw, while the men suffered a narrow 2-0 defeat to world champions, Austria.

On Sunday, Namibia’s men and women looked a bit nervous and out of sorts as the men lost 7-1 to The Netherlands and the women 3-2 to Kazakhstan, but yesterday they were both in inspirational form.

Namibia’s men gave Austria little respect as they attacked from the start, winning two early short corners, but JP Britz and Liam Hermanus could not convert.

Austria weathered the early storm and after Namibian keeper DJ Strauss pulled off a diving save from Losonci Fulop, Fabian Unterkircher opened Austria’s account from a short corner at the end of the first quarter.

Strauss kept Namibia in the game with several more fine saves, while they created more chances, but could not finish them off.

Austria went 2-0 up midway through the third quarter when Oliver Binder finished off a quick counter-attack, but Namibia immediately struck back and nearly opened their account when Hermanus hit the crossbar from a short corner.

In a hectic final quarter, there were more chances on either side with Strauss saving twice from Sebastian Eitenberger, while JP Britz and Hermanus came close for Namibia, but Austria held on for their 2-0 victory.

The president of the Namibia Hockey Union, Reagon Graig, was thrilled with Namibia’s performance.

“Yesterday there were a lot of jitters and we played a late game, but today we played in the morning so I could see there was a freshness in the guys. They really held their own and I’m extremely proud of them. Austria is the number one ranked country in the world at the moment and we competed. Especially at the end there, we were pressurising them and playing really well,” he said.

“To keep the world’s top-ranked team goalless for two chukkas is a phenomenal feat, and I guess we showed them a lot of respect. But we also applied a lot of pressure especially towards the end, while we had our chances, hitting the crossbar as well, so I think we can all be very proud of our team,” he added.

Namibia’s women, meanwhile, came from behind to force a 2-2 draw against Canada, but they could have won the match had they taken their chances.

With Maggy Mengo in inspirational form, Namibia dominated the early play, with Azaylee Philander and Gillian Hermanus coming close, while Kaela Schimming and Caitlyn Gillies both shot wide from short corners.

Canada, however, opened the scoring against the run of play when Samantha McCrory finished off a quick counterattack midway through the second quarter.

Namibia once again went on the offensive and after Hermanus and Schimming came close, their pressure finally paid off when 17-year-old Jaime Gillies scored two goals within two minutes at the end of the third quarter.

She drew Namibia level after finishing off a Hermanus attack and then slammed home a cross by Jivanka Kruger to put Namibia 2-1 ahead with one quarter to go.

Canada, however, soon replied when Lee Alison scored from a short corner, but Namibia had a great chance to win it when they won a penalty with three minutes to go, but Hermanus’ shot was well saved by Canada keeper Rowan Harris as the teams played out to a 2-2 draw.

Namibia coach Erwin Handura said they did not make use of their chances.

“We had a chance to win the match in the last minutes when we got a penalty stroke, but we didn’t convert and at this level if you don’t convert you will get punished. We had so many chances but we didn’t convert them and that has been our downfall, even yesterday it was the same story,” he said.

“But I’m happy with the performance, we stepped up and if we play at the same intensity in our remaining three games, I’m sure we will win at least two which will put us into the quarterfinals. I’m sure we can make the quarterfinals, any team can be beaten if you only utilise your chances,” he added.

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