JAPAN turned on their power against South Africa to place themselves strongly for a place in the final of 29th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2022 International Men’s hockey tournament at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium, Ipoh, this evening.
In fact, Japan who were the first to arrive in Ipoh for the tournament – five days ahead – had sounded their intention to win the title for the first time ever.
Japan has never won the tournament since they made their debut in 1987 when they finished 6th. In their three other appearance, they finished 7th in 2016, 6th in 2017 and 5th in 2019.
Yesterday, Japan who were trailing by a penalty stroke goal in the 7th converted by Bradley Sherwood, turned on their power soon after to equalise four minutes later from a penalty corner converted by Ryosel Kato.
In the second quarter, Japan went to score two more for halftime score of 3-1. Captain Seren Tanaka scored off a field goal in the 20th minute before Kojio Yamasaki made it 3-1 in the 27th minute.
South Africa tried their best to get back in the game but Japan kept them at bay before finally managing to find their fourth goal in the 52nd second when Koudai Saeki scored off a field goal.
But South Africa’s never say die attitude earned them a goal in the 54th minute when scored off a penalty corner rebound to reduce the deficit.
SOUTH AFRICA COACH: GARRETH EWING
“There is no excuses for the way we went down to Japan. We played poorly.
Japan is a good team and they played the way we expected but we could not cope.
We took lead but crumbled to Japan’s efficiency and aggression.
We left it too late to try and comeback in the game and we paid the price.”
JAPAN COACH: AKIRA TAKAHASHI
“It was definitely our best match played so far in the tournament.
South Africa scored early, but we were not rattled because it was early in then game and we knew if we continued to play the way we are capable off, we will get back in the game.
And the players rose to the occasion and we are glad with the position we are in with seven points (2 wins 1 draw and 1 loss) and look good for a place in the final as we predicted when w arrived, but I feel the last a game against Malaysia will be the decider.”