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Argentina, Belgium and Pakistan win in Salta
07 Dec 2022 01:49

Picture FIH / Matias Aguirre

At the BDO Champions Challenge in Salta, Argentina impressed the crowd with a decisive 6-2 win over South Africa, Pakistan edged Canada by a lone goal (2-1), the young Belgium team showed character to beat China (4-3), and India and New Zealand split points after an entertaining match (2-2).

Game 1 – Pakistan v. Canada: 2-1 (half-time: 2-0)

The 2022 Champions Challenge opened under stormy skies in a venue diligently prepared by the Salta Hockey Association. Pakistan and Canada were first in action, with Pakistan immediately threatening and earning a free hit just outside the circle to create danger in front of Dave CARTER in the Canadian goal. A few minutes later, Rehan BUTT penetrated the Canadian circle but was prevented to shoot on goal by Scott SANDISON, coolly clearing the ball in both occasions.

Pakistan maintained the pressure, well absorbed by a patient Canadian defense. Then Canada took advantage of a green card to Rehan BUTT to mount their first dangerous attack; Connor GRIMES received the ball in front of Salman AKBAR in the Pakistani goal but was prevented to unleash his shot. The first penalty-corner was for Pakistan in the 14th minute and Sohail ABBAS did not miss the chance to open the score, with a little bit of luck, his weak low shot being deflected in goal by a defender.

Pakistan continued to control the play, but were wasting opportunities and losing balls on unforced errors, giving time to the Canadians to organize their game and mount a few dangerous attacks of their own. The danger shifted side after a yellow card to Canadian captain Ken PEREIRA and Pakistan earned another penalty-corner, dutifully converted by Sohail ABBAS, this time with a high flick that shaved the crossbar.

Canada immediately reacted and earned a penalty-corner of their own, but Wayne FERNANDES was less efficient and his flick was deflected high by a defender, so half-time was reached with a two-goal advantage for Pakistan. The Canadian started the second period in better offensive dispositions and pushed back Pakistan in their defensive zone. They earned a penalty corner but Scott TUPPER’s high flick was brilliantly saved by Salman AKBAR.

Canada had the upper hand for a while, but could not score. They were finally rewarded when Wayne FERNANDES scored on a penalty-corner, after some confusion when the Pakistani goal-keeper received a green card for breaking too early. Canada kept pushing, and unsettled the Pakistani defense with swift runs by Gabbar SINGH and Ken PEREIRA. Pakistan had a series of penalty-corners in the final minutes, but the Canadian defense had now broken the code and defended them successfully.

Pakistan won this first game, once again benefiting from Abbas’ lethal drag flick on penalty-corner, but they were certainly not impressive and struggled when Canada managed to lift the tempo of play. Umar BUTTA earned his first International Cap in this game.

Game 2 – Belgium v. China: 4-3 (half-time: 1-1)

The second game of the day started on a high rhythm, as if both team wanted to fight off the cool rain. Belgium were quickly dangerous and Renaud PANGRAZIO opened the scoring in the 10th minute after a quick counter-attack found him alone in front of the goal. China were nevertheless unphased and score within minutes by Yubo NA to level the score.

The game was swinging back and forth at an exciting pace but both goal-keepers stood tall and no further goals were scored in the period. The same pattern prevailed at the start of the second half, and teams traded goals in quick succession. First Huiren HU scored on a penalty-corner after a combination that mystified the Belgium defense, then Jeffrey THYS tied the game with a strong shot from the top of the circle. But the joy of the Belgium players was short lived, Yi SONG giving back the advantage to his team within a minute with a decisive strike from close range!

Belgium tied the score again in the 53rd minute by Simon GOUGNARD on another hard shot from the top of the circle, much to the displeasure of the Chinese players who argued that he was outside the zone. Belgium had the upper hand in the final stage of the game and were rewarded when Renaud PANGRAZIO stroked again to take the lead with less than five minutes to go.

With China reduced to ten players on a green card to Huiren HU, no more goals were scored and Belgium earned a deserved win in a hard fought game, despite a heavy deficit in experience (with Max MACHTELINX and Loȉck LUYPAERT earning their first International Caps today).

Game 3 – New Zealand v. India: 2-2 (half-time: 0-1)

The next game was also a hotly contested affair, New Zealand were immediately on the attack under the impulsion of a very active Ryan ARCHIBALD. However the Indian defense was vigilant and never let the Kiwis really threaten Adrian D'SOUZA in goal. The game continued at a high pace, with neither team able to grasp control of play. Phillip BURROWS had a deflection from close range go inches wide and a hard shot crash on the post, but it is India who finally opened the scoring, by Tushar KHANDKER at the conclusion of a quick counter-attack that took the New Zealand defense off guard.

The Black Sticks besieged the Indian goal in the final minutes of the period but were kept at bay by an Indian defense solidly organized around Sardar SINGH, and half time was reached with the one-goal advantage for India. New Zealand started the second period on the same attacking note, but still could not manage to shake the Indian defense.

It finally took a penalty-stroke in the 47th minute by Dean COUZINS, totally wrong-footing the goal-keeper, for New Zealand to come back on the scoreboard. They had little time to rejoice, as Shivendra SINGH nearly scored on the next attack. His deflection from close range hit the post, but he had a similar opportunity shortly after and this time made no mistake to beat Kyle PONTIFEX in the New Zealand goal.

New Zealand were not down yet and tied once again the game, this time by Andrew HAYWARD on penalty-corner. The final minutes of the game were intense, providing good entertainment for the crowd, but no more goals were scored and the teams  

Game 4 – Argentina v. South Africa: 6-2 (half-time: 4-1)

After impressing the crowd with an a capella rendition of their national anthem, the South African were immediately under pressure and conceded two penalty-corners in a row, but both flicks by Pedro IBARRA were saved by the defense. South Africa reacted immediately and nearly opened the scoring a few minutes later but could not adjust a shot from a scramble in front of the open net.

Argentina benefitted from another penalty-corner in the 9th minute, and this time Pedro IBARRA made no mistake and slotted his flick out of reach of Brendon BOTES in the South African net. He increased his tally a few minutes later on a severe penalty-stroke much to the pleasure of the local crowd arrived in numbers to support the host team.

South Africa reacted well and narrowed the gap after a superb effort by Marvin HARPER who dribbled his way thought the entire Argentinean defense before beating Juan Tomas ESPINOSA in goal. After a period of balanced play, Argentina regained their two-goal lead by Agustin A MAZZILLI, receiving the ball with time and space at the top of the circle and making no mistake to put the ball out of reach of the keeper.

Pedro IBARRA completed his hat-trick on another penalty-corner shortly before the break, reached with a comfortable lead for Argentina (4-1). With a cold drizzle drowning the venue, not to mention the enthusiasm of players and spectators, the second period took a long time to find its rhythm. Argentina rejoiced the crowd with some fancy stick work and scored two more goals by Lucas VILA. South Africa salvaged some pride late in a game with a beautiful field goal by Lloyd NORRIS-JONES, but Argentina cruised to a fairly easy 6-2 victory.

The BDO Champions Challenge continues on Tuesday in Salta when India face China, Belgium meet New Zealand, Canada play South Africa and hosts Argentina conclude the day against Pakistan.

For additional information, pictures, video clips, official game sheets, and more, please check the special FIH event microsite @ http://www.2022championschallengemen.sportcentric.com.

BDO Champions Challenge I (men) – Salta, Argentina
Results Day 1 - Sunday 6 December 2022

Pakistan - Canada  2:1 (2:0)
PAK  14mn  Sohail ABBAS (PC)  1:0
PAK  31mn  Sohail ABBAS (PC)  2:0
CAN  47mn  Wayne FERNANDES (PC)  2:1

Belgium - China  4:3 (1:1)
BEL  10mn  Renaud PANGRAZIO (FG)  1:0
CHN  14mn  Yubo NA (FG)  1:1
CHN  38mn  Huiren HU (PC)  1:2
BEL  42mn  Jeffrey THYS (FG)  2:2
CHN  43mn  Yi SONG (FG)  2:3
BEL  53mn  Simon GOUGNARD (FG)  3:3
BEL  65mn  Renaud PANGRAZIO (FG)  4:3

New Zealand - India   2:2 (0:1)
IND  30mn  Tushar KHANDKER (FG)  0:1
NZL  47mn  Dean COUZINS (PS)  1:1
IND  51mn  Shivendra SINGH (FG)  1:2
NZL  58mn  Andrew HAYWARD (PC)  2:2

Argentina - South Africa  6:2 (4:1)
ARG   9mn  Pedro IBARRA (PC)  1:0
ARG  12mn  Pedro IBARRA (PS)  2:0
RSA  15mn  Marvin HARPER (FG)  2:1
ARG  24mn  Agustin A MAZZILLI (FG)  3:1
ARG  31mn  Pedro IBARRA (PC)  4:1
ARG  53mn  Lucas VILA (FG)  5:1
ARG  55mn  Lucas VILA (FG)  6:1
RSA  69mn  Lloyd NORRIS-JONES (FG)  6:2

Pool A: 1) Belgium 3 pts  2) India and New Zealand 1 pt  4) China 0 pt
Pool B: 1) Argentina 3 pts (+4)  2) Pakistan 3 pts (+1)   3) Canada 0 pt (-1)  4) South Africa 0 pt (-4)

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