England women’s captain Kate Richardson-Walsh admitted she was at a loss to explain her side’s form after they saw their faint hopes of making the Hockey World Cup semi-finals all but disappear with a 4-1 defeat to South Africa.
After opening losses to USA and China, England knew victory over the South Africans was crucial in keeping them in the hunt in The Hague.
And they started with real purpose in the opening minutes – Sophie Bray seeing her diving shot fly over the bar before Lily Owsley’s driven effort came back off the post.
But with both teams pushing for the opening goal, it was South Africa who took the lead on 17 minutes when Kathleen Taylor knocked in a rebound after England keeper Maddie Hinch initially saved.
It got worse for England when Sulette Damons stole the ball on the edge of the circle before firing in on 32 minutes while Shelley Russell slid in to convert South Africa’s third on the stroke of half-time.
England’s defence was once again exposed on 52 minutes when Dirkie Chamberlain was left unmarked in the circle to score.
And while Nicola White pulled a goal back three minutes later on the angle, it would prove little consolation for devastated Richardson-Walsh and her teammates.
“I’m very angry, very disappointed. We don’t make the sacrifices we do, and train as hard as we do for performances like that and the performances we have had in the last few games,” she said. “I’m just devastated really.
“I don’t know why it is not working, it is just not clicking. We started brighter in this game, we went out and we went for it but as you don’t get that opportunity and that goal, I think the pressure builds.
“And then they scored and it just seemed to crack a bit of our morale, and that can’t happen. There are a lot of girls at home who would love to be where we are and we have to go out and prove to them and ourselves that we are worthy of wearing the shirt.”
© Sportsbeat 2014