Blair Hilton was the hero of the night getting the final goal in the shoot-out to secure the semi-final spot for New Zealand, which will be against England at 1.15am on Saturday morning (NZ time). Earlier in 1st quarter-final England defeated Belgium by 1-0.
The match was very much a game of two halves, with New Zealand dominating the first 35 minutes and going 1-0 up thanks to a Kane Russell drag flick, and then Argentina piling on the pressure in the second half.
“Throughout this tournament we have been very up and down with our play, and we saw elements of that tonight. We need to play right through the match if we are going to be a regular top four team,” said Black Sticks head coach Colin Batch.
“The team are enjoying the win at the moment, we will debrief it tonight and then we have two days to prepare against England.
“We are pleased to be playing England, we expect that we will play much better than we did during pool play. England are a top side and they have proved that already winning all four games at the tournament,” says Batch.
Batch noted Shea McAleese, goalkeeper Devon Manchester and Russell as stand outs of tonight’s game but said it was pleasing to see everyone in the team contributing and having a better performance.
Hero Man of the Match, Russell shot the Blacks Sticks into an early lead against Argentina in the eighth minute.
In a game that was fast-paced and combative, the Kiwis played with the structure and speed that Batch was looking for. The pressure paid off and they were handed the chance to double their lead when a penalty stroke was awarded and captain Dean Couzins stepped up, only to see his stroke hit the post.
In the second half, only determined defending maintained the Black Sticks narrow lead, for the first 15 minutes of the second half, Argentina were camped in the New Zealand half of the pitch. With 20 minutes left on the clock and New Zealand hoping their semi-final spot was booked, Argentina’s Matias Paredes scored from open play.
Drawn at full time, the teams started the penalty shoot-out. At the end of the first round, both teams were drawn, with two successful penalty attempts each.
As the players entered the sudden death round of the penalty shoot-out, both Argentina and Hugo Inglis scored. Argentina failed to score, and it was Hilton who became the hero of the hour as he took the ball wide around the Argentine goal keeper and put New Zealand through to the semi-finals.
“This was an exciting way to win. We are really pleased with the first half, but there are still a lot of things we must improve,” said Black Sticks captain Dean Couzins.