The national Under-21 women’s field hockey team missed out on an opportunity to finish in the top 10 at the ongoing FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup following a 1-0 loss to Austria at North West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa on Saturday.
Austria will now play Ireland in the 9-10th place match, while Zimbabwe will play Malaysia for 11-12th.
The opening quarter was very much Austria’s in terms of possession as the European team seemed to have a better structure and focus in this match to decide who would play for 13-14th place.
Zimbabwe's Lilian Pope reflects on the game versus Austria at the FIH Hockey Women's Junior World Cup 2021. #RisingStars pic.twitter.com/whfDgVarRT
— International Hockey Federation (@FIH_Hockey) April 9, 2022
However, when it came to converting those chances, Austria just couldn’t find their way past Jenna Mathieson in the Zimbabwe goal. The closest opportunity fell to Nathalie Matousek, whose good work was spoilt when she flicked the ball straight at the keeper. With seconds left, Johanna Czech sent a penalty corner shot just past the goalpost.
In the second quarter, the game evened out as Zimbabwe began to find their place on the pitch. Alexi Terreblanche was proving a stabilising force in midfield and some good running attacks were mounted on the back of her performance. Unfortunately for the African team, the forwards were not able to find a way into their opponent’s circle.
During the half-time team talks, both Head Coaches asked their players to reduce the amount of turnovers and to be more efficient int he circle.
Certainly Zimbabwe started in sparkling fashion. Within seconds they had broken through the Austrian defence and had their first meaningful shot. There was no score but it certainly signalled a higher level of intent.
As the game continued with no goals being scored, frustration began to creep into both team’s performance. Austria’s Fiona Felber went on a mazy run that earned her team a penalty corner, but once again Mathieson was able to watch the ball fly wide.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 54th minute when Katharina Bauer pounced on a ball that had bobbled off a Zimbabwe stick. She took the ball wide on her reverse, which gave her space to fire home and give her side an all-important goal.
Once they had the goal, Austria showed their ability to manage a game well as they kept Zimbabwe’s desperate measures to equalise at bay.
Austria’s Head Coach Corinna Zerbs said: “It’s is unbelievable what this young team has achieved so far. Particularly given that we had no real preparation. We have improved from game to game. Zimbabwe defended very well but we are delighted that we scored that goal.”
Zimbabwe’s Head Coach Tendayi Maredza was magnanimous in defeat: “It was a tough one but we fought hard. There had to be a winner and Austria took their chance. We could have stolen it in the second half but to do that we have to take our chances.”