Early goals propel France over South Africa in teams’ first FIH Hockey Pro League meeting

15 February 2022

A two-goal opening quarter haunted South Africa as they dropped at 4-1 decision to France in the teams’ first-ever meeting in the FIH Pro League. Gaspard Baumgarten was named Player of the Match as he buried two goals, while teammates Blaise Rogeau and Timothée Clément also tallied in the win. South Africa’s Dayaan Cassiem was unlucky to only tally once as he also hit a cross bar in the final quarter.

France’s Baumgarten said after the win: “I’m not too much a striker but happy to score today and even more happy for the win of the team. We are really happy (with their overall performance in South Africa). We played great hockey and tried to play better and better each game which was the purpose for being here.”

It was clear from the opening whistle that France was keen to pick up from their second and third games last week that saw them tie the Netherlands and beat the Olympic bronze medalists, India. They wasted little time getting to work as three minutes in and France had a penalty corner. Moments later a flurry of shots put the South Africans under pressure. The final shot by Baumgarten took a touch off South African Nduduzo Lembethe and the ball popped through the legs of keeper Gowan Jones for the opening marker.

South Africa’s Nqobile Ntuli had the best chance of the half for the hosts but the back-hand shot pinged off the post in the seventh minute. France doubled their lead in the 11th minute. Eliot Curty charged alone down the right side and his sweeping pass was deflected well by a diving Francois Goyet’s reverse stick. Blaise Rogeau was there at the near post to finish the pretty counterattack play and seal the 2-0 lead for France.

Estiaan Kriek subbed into the South African net after the opening break and he punched away a brilliant shot from Baumgarten in the 17th minute to leave the game still 2-0 by half time.

France, though clinical in execution, looked to relax their tempo in the third quarter. South Africa forced a number of turnovers and created lots of counter-attack play but failed to find any kind of finish.

Despite the casual play of France, they were nonetheless clinical when they entered the South African circle. Matéo Desgouilllons forced a close-range save out of Gowan Jones in the 34th minute. The teams then spent a good seven minutes trading away sloppy turnovers but France were able to find their strides in the 41st. A brilliant deceptive pass from Stanislas Branicki paced the ball out to the right side and the pass came firing in to Baumgarten. The shot needed a deflection from defender Leneal Jackson to give France a 3-0 lead.

Dayaan Cassiem had a chance to get South Africa on the board with minutes to go in the third quarter but his blast booked for the top shelf was seen the whole way by the blocker of Arthur Thieffry.

The final quarter really sided with South Africa. Nqobile Ntuli and Cassium brothers Dayaan and Mustapha were combining dangerously up, but still without result. Dayaan then put on a show dancing his way with 3D skills past four French defenders only to leave Ryan Julius with a shot at goal but the ball blasted wide left of the net.

France found their fourth goal on an aerial ball that allowed a baseline entry for Gaspar Xavier. His pass was sent into traffic for Clément to knock in and France took the lead 4-0.

South Africa stayed in it and denied Timothée Clement’s penalty corner with a goalline save from Nicholas Spooner, while Dayaan Cassiem hit a cross-bar moment. It was a sign of what was to come as Mustapha set up his brother Dayaan to break the France shutout with three minutes to go in the game. It was too little, too late and France finished with the 4-1 victory and their second set of three points in their opening tour of the FIH Pro League.

South African captain Horne said after the loss: “We had a quite a few chances and it’s a pity they didn’t go in. The French are very clinical and they did well and if you can’t score you can’t win. We will do our analysis after the game. There’s lots to take out of it. We had a lot of soft turnovers but they were just very clinical.”

The two teams will dual again on Sunday, February 20 after playing games against Germany who join them in Potchestfstroom. To see the current men’s FIH Pro League Standings, click here.

More information on the game can be found by clicking here.

The FIH Hockey Pro League Season 3 will be back in action on Wednesday 16 and Thursday 17 with the France men playing Germany and then South Africa hosting Germany at Potchestfstroom, University of North West, South Africa. To see the complete FIH Hockey Pro League match schedule, please click here.

FIH Pro League – 15 February 2021

Potchestfstroom, University of North West (RSA)

Result: Men’s Match 17
South Africa 1, France 4
Player of the Match: Gaspard Baumgarten (FRA)
Umpires: Ayden Shrives (RSA), Sean Rapaport (RSA), Wanri Venter (RSA-video)

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