Namibian men aiming for gold

Dylan Finch in action for Namibia against the Netherlands at the 2023 Indoor Hockey World Cup in Pretoria. File photo

Namibia’s indoor hockey men’s team carry the nations hopes at the Sultan Nazrin Shah Cup in Malaysia after the women dropped out of contention for the gold medal after Thursday’s matches.

Namibia’s women lost 2-1 to South Africa and then relinquished a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 against New Zealand, which put them fourth on the log, and out of the running for the final. 

Namibia’s men, however, are in a three-way tie with SA and Australia at the top of the log, and a victory in their final group match against Australia on Friday will clinch them a place in Saturday’s final. 

In the women’s first match on Thursday, South Africa applied the early pressure, winning a few short corners, but Namibian keeper Petro Stoffberg kept her line clear. 

SA took the lead early in the second quarter when they won a penalty and Tegan Fourie scored from the spot. 

Jivanka Kruger led Namibia’s fightback with some counterattacks, while she also won a short corner that was not converted, but SA stretched their lead just before halftime when Kayla de Waal scored from a short corner. 

Namibia came back strongly in the third quarter, with Azaylee Philander opening their account from a short corner and with the score at 2-1 they were right back in the game. 

With Kruger once again instigating their attacks, Namibia won a few short corners in the final quarter, but they could not convert as SA held on for a close victory. 

In their second match against New Zealand, Namibia let slip a 3-0 lead as New Zealand battled back for a 3-3 draw. 

Namibia got off to a great start, going 2-0 ahead within three minutes after short corner goals by Azaylee Philander and Jocelle Wessels, while a field goal by Jerrica Bartlett put them 3-0 ahead after 10 minutes.

Amy Robinson opened New Zealand’s account with a field goal a minute later, and then after more attacks in the third quarter they won a penalty. Stoffberg, however, pulled off a fine save to deny Oriwa Hepi and keep Namibia’s two-goal lead intact. 

New Zealand, however, produced a stirring comeback, with a field goal by Hannah Cardno early in the final quarter reducing Namibia’s lead to 3-2, and when New Zealand won a short corner in the final minute of the game, Hepi put it away to grab a share of the spoils. 

South Africa, meanwhile, went to the top of the log after beating Australia 4-0 a few hours after their Namibian triumph. 

In other results on Thursday, Australia beat Malaysia 3-2, Switzerland beat New Zealand 4-3, and Malaysia beat Switzerland 3-1.

SA now lead the log on 12 points and already assured of a place in the final, while Switzerland (9 points) and Australia (6) are still battling it out for second place.

They are followed by Namibia (4 points), Malaysia (3) and New Zealand (1), and with one round of matches remaining on Friday, all three teams are still in the battle for the bronze medal. 

Namibia’s final group match is against Australia at 05h30 Namibian time on Friday morning. 

Namibia’s men, meanwhile, are in a tight battle with three other teams to reach the final.

Namibia, South Africa and Australia are all on nine points, with SA leading on goal difference, and even fourth-placed Malaysia (6 points) can still make the final depending on today’s results.

In the final round of group matches on Friday, Namibia take on Australia at 10h30 Namibian time, while SA take on Malaysia, and New Zealand face Hong Kong China.

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