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The quest for a place at the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan began on the African continent as six countries graced the opening match day with great performances and wonderful goals .The Stellenbosch University hockey pitch was the main venue for the 2019 African Olympic qualifiers. Host South Africa managed to brush aside a resilient Namibia side with who gave them a tough one in the early minutes of the game.
The holders put all resources together in the third and fourth quarter to score three excellent goals with two coming from a penalty corner courtesy Austin Smith. Their main rivals Egypt had an easy one in their opening game with a 6-0 victory over Zimbabwe. Elganaini took an early lead in the top scorer race with a superb hat trick.
The race for the sole qualification slot became tight as third placed team on the continent, Ghana twice came from a goal down to beat Kenya 3-2 in a keenly contested clash. With just one qualification spot up for grabs, the tenacity and intensity of tournament grew as the matches unfolded.
Egypt 6-0 Zimbabwe
Egypt (World Ranking: 20) got the tournament underway as they faced Zimbabwe. The Egyptians who are returning from the FIH series finals exhibited class and great experience in the clash. With just five minutes into the game, the Egyptians were 2-0 up. A misplaced pass amongst the Namibia defense fell into the path of Ahmed Elganaini who slotted it home for the opener. He hit his brace 60 seconds later from a well executed team goal. Elganaini completed his hat trick as he got his name on the scoresheet again in the 34th minute.
Three more goals were added in the the final 10 minutes, two coming from Amr Sayed – one from a penalty corner – either side of a strike from Amr Ibrahim, also from a penalty corner.
Ghana 3-2 Kenya
Ghana’s men hosted Kenya in the second match of the day which produced five goals. Kenya got off to a fine start courtesy a penalty corner from skipper Constant Wakhura. The East African side after soaking an intense pressure from the Ghanaians were awarded a penalty corner few minutes to halftime. Constant with a perfect execution found the top right corner of the post beating goalkeeper Tyche Duisburg.
Ghana restored parity in the 37th minute after new sensation Benjamin Kwofie left unmarked in the scoring cirle made it 1-1. Another penalty corner and Kenya were in the lead again – Onyango Festus the goalscorer this time with nine minutes left to play. The West Africans responded quickly 60 seconds later after Akaba Elikem deflected captain Salya Nsalbini’s pass into the goalpost. The Ghanaian skipper then cemented his status as the day’s hero when he grabbed the winner during overtime to give Ghana a 3-2 victory.
South Africa 3-1 Namibia
The host and holders, South Africa then took to the pitch in the final game of the day as they engaged Namibia a side they beat 11-0 the last time they met. Playing on their own grounds, the top ranked team on the continent were tipped to have an easy one in this but the Namibians had other plans .
Thirty minutes gone and the scoreline hadn’t changed. South Africa knew they had to win at all cost and approached the third quarter a much better side. Their effort paid off as Cassiem Dayaan gave them the opener. Austin Smith added two brilliant goals from penalty corners in the 55th and 57th minute to make it 3-0. A consolation was all Namibia could afford in the dying embers of the game courtesy Percy Barthram from a penalty corner .
The tournament continues on Tuesday 13th August, 2019 with Egypt hosting Kenya in the first match of the day. Ghana will then play Namibia before South Africa wraps the day with Zimbabwe.