Black Sticks aim for revenge in semifinal

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 17/01/2014

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The Black Sticks' men will be looking for redemption when they face England in the semifinals of the World League hockey tournament in New Delhi tomorrow morning (NZ time).

New Zealand earned their spot in the last four following a thrilling quarterfinal shootout victory over Argentina, after the game was tied 1-all at fulltime.

New Zealand coach Colin Batch saluted his side's gritty performance against Argentina, but said their attention was now on England, who beat them 5-1 in pool play.

"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."

The Black Sticks have been inconsistent at the tournament, conceding 11 goals in their two group games against Germany and England, but beating India and Argentina.

Batch said his team would have to be at the top of their game and start well against England.

"Throughout this tournament we have been very up and down with our play, and we saw elements of that [against Argentina]. We need to play right through the match if we are going to be a regular top-four team."

The Black Sticks and Argentina could not be separated after the first round of the shootout with both teams each netting two goals from their five attempts.

Hugo Inglis responded after Argentina's Augustin Mazzili was successful in the sudden-death phase of the shootout. New Zealand then had an opportunity to advance after Lucas Vila's unsuccessful attempt. Blair Hilton made no mistake, firing the ball past Argentine goalkeeper Joaquin Berthold with a reverse stick effort. It was the second goal in the shootout for the composed Hilton.

New Zealand started the game positively with talented youngster Kane Russell netting off a penalty corner in the seventh minute to give his team the perfect start.

The Black Sticks had a chance to go 2-0 up late in the first half when they were awarded a penalty stroke after Simon Child's stick was obstructed on a breakaway into the circle. Captain Dean Couzins was unable to convert from the spot with his shot, hitting the right hand post.

Argentina came out with much more energy after halftime and had several promising chances, but were denied through either strong New Zealand defence or goalkeeper Devon Manchester, who had an outstanding game.

Argentina levelled the scoreline through Matias Paredes with 11 minutes remaining.

The other semifinal is between Australia and the Netherlands.

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- Fairfax Media

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