THE Namibian Hockey team will take on Canada in their next Group A match in the FIH Women’s Series Finals in Valencia after they lost their opening match against Belarus with 7 – 0.
Belarus is ranked 20th in the world while Namibia is ranked at 42. The Canadians are ranked at 21 in the world.
According to a report about the match by the fihseriesfinal.com website the opening salvos saw Belarus build play steadily, while the Namibian side sought to catch their opponents on the counter-attack.
It was clear from the opening minutes that Namibia would be looking to their captain Magreth Mengo to provide a pivotal point from which attacks would build.
It was Belarus who forced early saves from Petro Stoffberg as Krestina Papkova crossed some searching balls into the circle for her teammates on the forward line to latch onto. But it was Papkova herself who opened the scoring, as she jumped onto a rebound and pushed the ball into the goal.
Belarus were prevented from expanding their lead when Stoffberg made a good save from the first penalty corner of the game. The agile ‘keeper followed up with another save late in the quarter.
A well-worked penalty corner saw the higher ranked team double their lead early in the second quarter. Again it was Papkova who put the ball in the net, following a slick three-pass routine that left Namibia chasing shadows.
Papkova scored her hat trick after an unfortunate defensive error left her with just the keeper to beat. The on-form striker made no mistake as she shot low to Stoffberg’s right.
Elena Sazhina joined the goal-fest with a sharply struck shot that flew through the Namibian defence who were, by now, looking shell-shocked by the strength of their opponent’s attack.
The second half saw Belarus resume with three quick goals in the 32nd, 33rd and 34th minute. The scorers were Papkova, Natassia Syrayezhka and Darya Belavusava respectively.
“It was the opening game and that is the most important game and I think we let ourselves down a bit through a lack of energy,” said Magreth Mengo. “We have quite a young team and they have to learn to deal with the first stages of a tournament. But it is not over yet, there is still an opportunity for us to do well in the next games, so we need to focus on that.”
Goal hero Krestina Papkova said: “We have been preparing really well for this competition. We have played here in Valencia recently so we know the pitch well. All our training has been very focused on this event.
“Tomorrow we will have one more training session and we will watch a video of the next opposition, Spain, after their match today [against Canada]. We will be very well prepared for that game too.”
Namibia will face the Canadian team on Friday and Spain on Saturday to make it to the quarter finals of the tournament which also serves as qualifying matches for the Tokyo Olympics.