An enormous team effort has led the Black Sticks Men to a 1-0 win over Spain and sees them progress to the semi finals at the Hockey World League Round 3 (Semi-Final) in Rotterdam.
A first half goal from Hugo Inglis was enough to put the still undefeated Kiwi men into the semi-finals where they will play Belgium on Saturday morning at 3am (NZ time) for a shot at the final. Belgium defeated Ireland 6-3 in the 1st quarter final on the day.
The win guarantees the Black Sticks a top four finish at the tournament which not only means they qualify for World League Round 4, but are also in good shape to qualify for the 2014 Hockey World Cup.
Today’s game was a complete team effort with the Black Sticks outdone on the stat sheet but coming out on top thanks to superior tactics, especially on defence.
Head coach Colin Batch was thrilled to win through to the semi-finals and said his side showed impressive composure throughout the game as a unit.
“It was an advantage to get a goal early and again we proved that defence is a cornerstone of our performance under pressure,” Batch said.
“Full credit to every player out there today, it was an enormous team effort. All players performed well and did an exceptional job towards the end.”
Batch, former head coach of Belgium, is looking forward to what will be a tough game against a red-hot team he helped build.
“It’s a bit strange to be playing against them but that’s the way it goes. Belgium are playing great hockey but I’m confident we have the skills to match them.”
The Black Sticks played the better first half against Spain and looked dangerous in possession, although shots on goal were rare for both sides.
Inglis opened the scoring in the 14th minute with a full length diving deflection crashing into the top right corner to put New Zealand up 1-0.
Spain sent a scare through the Kiwi camp just out from halftime after an error at the back by Cory Bennett led to a penalty corner. Goalkeeper Devon Manchester positioned himself perfectly with the shot just missing the left post.
The second half showcased some exciting hockey while neither side could convert on their chances in the attacking circle.
New Zealand’s defence was outstanding late in the game and at fulltime the Black Sticks had drawn a clean sheet on all four of Spain’s penalty corner attempts.
The men were cheered on today by the Black Sticks Women, who play Netherlands in their semi-final at 6am tomorrow morning (NZ time). Both the men’s and women’s semi-finals are live on SKY Sport.
The top three men’s and women’s teams from the World League Semi-Final automatically qualify for the 2014 Hockey World Cup, although it is possible to earn qualification at the tournament with a lower ranking. New Zealand can still qualify in other ways as well, with the next opportunity coming at the Oceania Cup in Taranaki this October.
Black Sticks 1: (Hugo Inglis)
Halftime: Black Sticks 1-0