South Africa took a narrow lead in their Inline Hockey World Cup qualifying tournament after beating Namibia 3-2 at the Windhoek Showgrounds on Friday evening. South Africa streaked into a 3-0 lead by the second quarter, but Namibia staged a great comeback, taking control of the game in the final two quarters. Namibia created countless scoring opportunities but struggled to find a way past South Africa’s huge goalkeeper, Ashley Bock, and will now go into Saturday evening’s final qualifying match with a one goal deficit.
South Africa took the game to the hosts in the first quarter with some swift attacks and had an early goal disallowed for goalmouth interference. Namibian keeper Arne Rodenwoldt brought off some fine saves but with a minute remaining in the first quarter, South Africa took the lead when Andre Marais scored after an assist by David du Plessis.
Cello Baas had a great chance for Namibia early in the second quarter when he broke through the defence but he could not find a way past Bock and South Africa went 3-0 up after two goals in quick succession. First George Lyon scored on a quick counterattack and then Cameron Birrel scored with a long range shot.
Namibia started creating more chances, notably through Baas, Alex Courtney Clarke and Quinton Kotze, but they could not get past Bock.
Namibia finally opened their account midway through the third quarter when Kotze scored from an assist by Stefan Ihms. By now Namibia were doing most of the attacking and Baas scored their second goal midway through the second half when Baas stabbed in from close range after an assist by Arne Rodenwoldt.
With the crowd urging Namibia on they continued to attack with Vincent van Biljon and Marco Debortoli creating good chances, but efforts by Stefan Ihms, Baas and Van Biljon were all saved.
At the other end, Namibian keeper Rodenwoldt brought off two fine saves from South African counterattacks by George Lyon and Joaquim Valadas as the match ended with the visitors holding a solitary goal lead.
Despite South Africa holding the advantage, Namibia will be confident of doing well in the second test on Saturday evening, after the numerous chances they created on Friday night. They will however have to work out a plan to get past the huge Bock who was South Africa’s hero on Friday evening.
The second World Cup qualifying match will start at 20h30 at the same venue on Saturday evening. The overall winner will qualify for the 2011 Inline Hockey World Championships to be held in the Czech Republic.