THE Zimbabwe Under-21 hockey team finished last in the Hockey Junior World Cup currently underway in Santiago, Chile, after they lost to France 3-1 in the final classification match for the bottom place on Saturday. BY HENRY MHARA
This is not the first time that they have fared badly at the tournament, as they also finished bottom in their two previous participations, with their last one coming 11 years ago.
Zimbabwe, the bottom-ranked team at the 16-team tournament on position 56 in the world, were in Group A, together with giants and world number one ranked Netherlands, as well as USA, ranked sixth and Korea at ninth.
Statistics were heavily staked against them. The Patricia Davies-coached side had few prospects of success going into the tournament, and were on the backfoot from the onset, when they were soundly beaten 10-0 in their opening group match against USA.
They followed that up with a 6-0 loss to Korea and were given a 13-0 hiding by tournament favourites, Netherlands in their last group game.
With only the two top teams in the group (Netherlands and USA) going through to the next round, Zimbabwe and Korea were relegated to the 13/16 place playoffs with Davies’ side paired against New Zealand.
They were hammered 16-0 and their last match was against France for the 15/16 place, where they managed to score their only goal of the tournament. Tyla Groenewald scored the consolation goal.
While the results are not pleasing to the eye, Hockey Association of Zimbabwe is still happy with the ladies’ performances.
In a statement posted on social media platforms, the association said: “Well done girls you have done your country, friends and families so incredibly proud. Fantastic ambassadors of our nation. Huge credit must go to head coach, Patricia Davies and assistant coach, Tendayi Maredza for all the tireless work they have put in to get this team to this point. A lifetime of memories, life experience and lessons on and off the hockey field made. To all the supporters spread across the world, thank you so much for your encouragement and motivation. It has been an incredible journey for this team and they have been exposed to such fantastic hockey and an opportunity to meet world-class athletes.”