Uganda men’s national hockey team, Hockey Cranes on Wednesday evening secured a slot in the semifinals of the Paris 2024 Olympics Qualifier despite losing to the event hosts, South Africa 11-00 in Pretoria.
Ahead of the game, Uganda knew they needed to merely contain the South Africans to less than a 14-goal deficit in order to make it through to the semi-final because earlier in the day, Nigeria beat Zimbabwe 4-3 in the men’s Group A tie, a result that favoured the Cranes as they had a superior goal difference than Nigeria and Zimbabwe who were also on three points. South Africa’s slot in the semis was already secured as they had won their first two games.
With semifinal qualification on the line, Uganda set up ultra-defensively, so much so that in the first half South Africa had 93% of the possession in the game. It took the hosts a while to score the first but when it came it was from the stick of Matt de Sousa. He took one touch for space before finishing strongly to give the hosts and their home crowd some early cheer. Having been frustrated for a while, the South Africans didn’t wait long for their second with Matt Guise-Brown netting from a PC.
Tevin Kok and Dayaan Cassiem brilliantly combined to set up Bili Ntuli who finished with a hard strike. Dayaan Cassiem then provided the fourth and fifth in similar fashion but from opposite sides of the goal. One for Keenan Horne and on for Sam Mvimbi taking the score to 5-0 lead at the half-time
Uganda was made to get a bit nervous as Guise-Brown made it six and despite denying Mustapha Cassiem on the goal line, they conceded from a tight shot just 30 seconds later to trail 7-0. Not long after it was 8-0 as Cassiem doubled his tally from a penalty corner.
Matt Guise-Brown completed his second hat-trick of the tournament before Brad Sherwood got a goal his play deserved on the night. There was still time for a third for Mustapha Cassiem giving the hosts the perfect 3 out of 3 in the group stages.
The Hockey Cranes will take on Egypt in the men’s semifinal on Friday at the University of Pretoria while South will play Ghana in the other semifinal with the opportunity to qualify for the final and contest for the place in Paris up for grabs.