USA TAME LIONS ROAR
Lions Assistant Coach Wayne Miller was philosophical about the loss after the match, "Today was a good learning curve for our players against much bigger, stronger bodies - the US were well disciplined with a good zone that we found in hard to penetrate effectively but that's all part of learning to play against different styles of footy - we think we learnt quite bit today and look forward to taking that experience into Melbourne with us"
The change rooms before the opening bounce of the match told two different stories of the participating countries.
In one room, USA Revolution looked nervous, anxious and slightly overawed by the situation. A pre-match address from US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich helped settle any nerves though.
The South African Lions rooms were totally different. Everyone who’s seen them play at IC11 is used to the team singing and dancing pre, during and post every match.
With a packed crowd piling into ANZ Stadium, this match was no exception. The South Africans didn’t break with tradition and as they sang and danced they were also warming up, handballing between one another.
However, when it got down to the match, it was USA who had all of the momentum early.
Two quick goals to Bryan Dragus (#18) and Richard Wheelock (#25) and a number of scoring opportunities (five behinds) saw the US race out to a handy 16-point lead at the first change.
The South Africans simply didn’t have any answers going forward while their opponents were making it look easy. The difference in height between the two countries was proving a valuable asset for the Revolution.
It took some soccer-style magic from Steven Malinga (#9) for South Africa’s first goal - their second scoring opportunity all match in comparison to USA’s ten shots.
And again, USA had all the answers as Dragus (#18) kicked his second goal to push their lead out to 19 points, which the Lions only reduced by one point at halftime.
A resurgent South Africa emerged in the second half led by captain Bayanda Sobetwa (#23) who kicked the first goal of the half.
Despite a number of attacking plays the South Africans couldn’t capitalise on their possession and USA made them pay through majors to Steve Fashant (#44) and Andy Vanica (#4).
With 24 points separating the two sides going into the last quarter it was always going to be a tough ask to get back in the contest for South Africa.
When Dragus (#18) kicked his third goal early in the fourth quarter the margin was out to five straight kicks.
In the end it was the Revolution who prevailed by 38 points, arguably one of their biggest victories in USA’s International Cup history.
Dragus was the star for the team up forward with four goals while captain Dan Sarbacker (#8) was instrumental in the victory leading the way in the midfield.
Lions Assistant Coach Wayne Miller was philosophical about the loss after the match,
"Today was a good learning curve for our players against much bigger, stronger bodies - the US were well disciplined with a good zone that we found in hard to penetrate effectively but that's all part of learning to play against different styles of footy - we think we learnt quite bit today and look forward to taking that experience into Melbourne with us," said Miller, an Aussie ex-pat who has coached for a number of years in Cape Town.
The result means USA will join Papua New Guinea, Ireland and New Zealand in the top four and a chance to lift this year’s International Cup aloft.
The South African Lions will now meet Great Britain this Wednesday in Melbourne to vie for 5th spot with other contenders in Nauru and Denmark making up their finals pool.
USA 7.14 (56) def South Africa 2.6 (18)
Best players: Thembikane (Dhino), Sikiti, Moagi (Hippo), Sobetwa, Nyiki
Goal kickers: Malinga, Sobetwa
Story courtesy Jordan Laing
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