India vs South Africa (Men’s Hockey CWG 2022 Semi-Final): Preview and Prediction￼
The Indian men’s hockey team will face South Africa in the first semi-final at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 on Saturday.
An intriguing contest is on the cards between Graham Reid’s young team and the last placed side in Glasgow four years ago. While the former looked ominous in their group games, the latter edged out New Zealand by a 4-3 margin on the final day of the group games.
India’s dream of winning their first Commonwealth Games gold medal in six editions moved a step closer to reality with an emphatic win over Wales in their final group game of the competition. This will be India’s fifth semi-final appearance in the CWG games and fourth on the trot since the 2010 Delhi Games.
Meanwhile, South Africa will just be making their second semi-final appearance after finishing fourth in the 2002 Manchester Games.
What have they done so far in the Games?
India, the most successful nation at the Olympic Games, has never won gold in the Commonwealth Games men’s hockey competition. It reached the final twice, in 2010 and 2014, but lost both times to Australia. This would be another opportunity for the Men in Blue to make their presence in the final of this prestigious event.
As the clock counts down to the conclusion of the 22nd Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on August 8, the India men’s hockey team begins their semi-final game against South Africa with a lot to prove. The priority for India is to win their first gold medal and demonstrate that the team is capable of triumphing in a difficult field.
Though the Commonwealth Games began in 1930 as the British Empire Games in Hamilton, Canada; hockey is a relatively new addition, having debuted in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur. In every edition since the sport’s introduction to the Games, Australia has dominated and triumphed.
By winning gold in Birmingham, the Indian hockey team will demonstrate that its recent success was not a fluke. Coach Graham Reid’s India made history in Tokyo 2020 by winning bronze, the country’s first Olympic medal in four decades, and has recently finished third in the FIH Pro League. The Indian men’s hockey team has also recently achieved its highest position in the FIH World Rankings.
South Africa, on the other hand, has already improved leaps from the last Games played at Gold Coast wherein they had finished bottom of all teams participating in the competition. This will in fact be South Africa’s just second appearance in the semi-finals of this prestigious event having finished fourth in the 2002 Manchester Games. They are indeed yet to win a medal and would like to break that jinx by winning one in this tournament.
Head to Head Record
India and South Africa have faced each other three times in the Commonwealth games with India winning each of these games against their African counterparts. In their last encounter in the games, India thrashed South Africa 5-0 in the group game of the 2014 Glasgow Games.
This year too, both the teams have played against each other twice that came in the 2021-22 FIH Pro League. In both these games, India hammered South Africa with an identical score line of 10-2.
Harmanpreet Singh (India): Harmanpreet Singh will undoubtedly be India’s ace against South Africa. The defender and drag-flick specialist was the leading goal scorer in the 2021/22 FIH Pro League goals. He had struck 18 goals in that competition and will undoubtedly play an important role in the upcoming games.
Except for the game against Argentina, Harmanpreet Singh has scored in every game for India in the FIH Pro League. Such has been his form that he is currently the second leading goal scorer of the 2022 Commonwealth Games after notching up nine goals including a hat-trick against Ghana and Wales.
If South Africa is to win the match, the South African defence will have to keep a close eye on him, especially during penalty corners. Harmanpreet will also play an important role in India’s defence, as he is now one of the team’s senior members.
Timothy Drummond (South Africa): Timothy Drummond made his international debut in 2012 and was part of the South African teams that won the gold medal in 2013, 2017 and 2022 Africa Cup of Nations.
Drummond has also competed for South Africa at the Hockey World Cups and Olympics where the Proteas finished 11th in the 2012 London Olympics and 11th in the 2012 Hockey World Cup, 16th in the 2018 Hockey World Cup and 10th in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
India squad: PR Sreejesh, Krishan Bahadur Pathak, Varun Kumar, Surender Kumar, Harmanpreet Singh (vice-captain), Amit Rohidas, Jugraj Singh, Jarmanpreet Singh, Manpreet Singh (captain), Hardik Singh, Vivek Sagar Prasad, Shamsher Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Nilakanta Sharma, Mandeep Singh, Gurjant Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Abhishek
South Africa squad: Connor Beauchamp, Gowan Jones, Daniel Bell, Ryan Julius, Matt Guise-Brown, Tevin Kok, Dayaan Cassiem, Peabo Lembethe, Mustapha Cassiem, Samkelo Mvimbi, Timothy Drummond (C), Siya Nolutshungu, Jethro Eustice, Nqobile Ntuli, Keenan Horne, Taine Paton, Le-Neal Jackson, Nicholas Spooner, Sihle Ngubane, Matt de Sousa
Expect both teams to tighten up their defence considerably and play a wait-and-watch game in the first quarter before attempting to exploit the gaps as the contest progresses.
A goal or two will open up the game considerably, although too many opportunities are unlikely to come by. The team that best utilises the attacking circle entries will win the day with penalty corners expected to play a huge role.
However, given the form that India is in at the moment and coupled with South Africa’s quality as a hockey team currently, we back the Men in Blue to make their maiden final appearance at CWG since the 2014 games.