It was a day when hockey was fierce and results in the return matches of the FIH Pro league had a pinch of surprise in them. First, it was last minute entrant France that upset the applecart of Olympic bronze medalist India 5-2 before the hosts South Africa put up a gallant fight while bowing down to the leaders, the Netherlands 2-6.
The day belonged to France as it recorded its first win over India and in the FIH Pro League. Ever since, its arrival in Potchefstroom in South Africa, it has shown considerable improvement in its performance. After going down to India 0-5 in its opening game, played within 48 hours of its arrival, the world no 13-team put up credible performance against the Netherlands with a 2-2 draw and later lost in the penalty shootout. In the third game, it had the 3rd ranked India under constant pressure in a game that clearly belonged to them.
The French not only prevented India from scoring from any of the 10 penalty corners it earned in the run of play but also brought to naught many good moves that desperate Indian team that mostly remained in arears.
France took the lead with a penalty stroke conversion by skipper Viktor Charlet in the 16th minute. Though Jarmanjeet Singh helped India to restore parity in the 22nd minute, the French never allowed their opponents to dominate.
Instead, they worked out brilliant moves, rattled Indian defense and scored four goals in the second half through Viktor Lockwood (35th minute) Charles Masson (48th minute), skipper Viktor Charlet (59th minute) and Timothe Clement (60th minute). All India could do was convert a penalty stroke awarded late in the second half. It was Harmanpreet Singh who made no mistake with the award in the 58th minute.
Though the supremacy of the Netherlands was never in doubt in the second game, the hosts, with nothing to lose, went all out and sparkled in patches. It was a different matter that while the Netherlands scored goals, the South Africans built up good moves and matched their more experienced opponents in all departments of the game. Dennis Warmerdam (29th and 39th minute) skipper Thierry Brinkman (21st minute), Thijs van Dam (15th minute), Tim Swaen (46th minute) and Tjep Herdemakens (54th minute) were the scorers for the Netherlands.
L. Jackson (26th minute) and Mathew De Souza (60th minute) reduced the margin for the home team.