Hosts South Africa joined the Ukrainian women’s team and the Iranian men in notching up their first victories of the tournament on another action-packed day at the FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup in Pretoria, South Africa.
A fiercely contested encounter saw South African firecracker Mustapha Cassiem scoring five goals in his side’s impressive 8-4 victory over the fourth-ranked Czech Republic.
“Of course I’m happy to get five on the board but ultimately it’s not about me – that’s our team motto – it’s not about me, it’s about the team. It’s about a nation that’s fighting to get better in the hockey world so we’re really happy to get the three points and really privileged to get on the scoresheet,” said an ecstatic Cassiem after the fiery match.
It was an emotional 3-0 victory for the third-ranked Ukrainians over Belgium after the disappointment of a draw in their opening match.
“We are really happy because we really expected to win yesterday but it was a draw, so we really gave a lot for this win,” said Ukrainian captain Yevheniia Moroz.
It’s been a tough journey for the team to prepare for the tournament in war-torn Ukraine.
“We do have training but it’s not like we have it usually because sometimes it’s interrupted by sirens, and we have to go to the basement for as long as we can hear the alarms,” explained Moroz.
“So we do have training but not as good as usual.
“It’s really tough to be at any kind of tournament because half of our hearts are still at home with our families. We are focused during the match but afterwards we are there at home...
When I hear our national anthem, I cannot hold my emotions inside.”
Meanwhile, Iran’s men had a battle on their hands against the USA. After Iran raced to a 2-0 lead by the third minute, the Americans slowly worked their way back into the match and managed to level matters at 3-3 towards the end of the first half. But Iranian keeper Sasan Hataminejad produced a spectacular performance to prevent any more goals, saving two strokes and keeping the determined Americans at bay. Having taken off their own keeper in the dying minutes of the match to boost their scoring chances, the USA conceded three quick goals and the ultimate score of 8-3 was far from an accurate reflection of the hard-fought contest, Reza Norouzzadeh completing his hattrick in the process.
Speaking about coming back from their shock loss to debutants Argentina on the opening day, Iranian captain Behdad Beiranvand said: “Yesterday was very bad, our tactics and systems were very bad but today was very good and we used our opportunities.
“The American team was a very good team but the Iranian team I think were better. I hope in the next games Iran get even better.”
During the day, there were second-straight victories for the Czech, Austrian, Dutch and Australian women as well as the Austrian, Dutch, Belgian and Argentinian men.
Belgian captain Philippe Simar was once again in prolific form, scoring three more goals against New Zealand to add to his tally of five from the opening day. After conceding in the first minute of the match, New Zealand, back in the World Cup fold after an absence of 20 years, did well to hold back the Belgian onslaught, trailing by just one goal heading into the final period. But then the floodgates opened with the Belgians scoring four more in the final 10 minutes to secure a 7-2 win.
“That’s my thing – I have to score goals. I don’t defend very well so that’s my target,” admitted Simar. “I think I am doing it well until now but I think it’s the team that’s defending very, very well so I have the opportunity to score the goals thanks to the team.”
Also notching up hattricks on day two of the action were Schut Wiegert in the Netherlands men’s 9-1 win over Kazakhstan and Natalia Novakova in the Czech Republic’s 8-2 victory over the Kazakhstan women.
Novakova said: “I’m very happy but it’s all about the team, not the last shooter… Our tournament began really well, and I think now we’re just going up and up and up, but I think we should still run harder and not be lazy.”
By the end of the second day of the tournament, the Netherlands and Czech Republic topped the respective women’s pools while the Netherlands and Argentina are top of the two men’s pools.