Black Sticks men target semifinals in London
JONATHAN MILLMOW IN LONDON
The Black Sticks believe they can punch above their world ranking and make the semifinals of the Olympic men's hockey tournament in London.
Ranked seventh in the world and fourth in their Olympic pool, the Blacks Sticks will need to claim a major scalp to finish in the top two of Pool B.
Coach Shane McLeod believes it is within his side's reach based on some significant "markers" over the past year. The three "markers" are the first win over Australia in 12 years, a fourth placing in the Champions Trophy and victory in the Azlan Sultan tournament.
"We sit at No 7 in the world and we would be hugely disappointed if we fell below that here," McLeod said.
"The key to our success is starting well. We have to put away [South] Korea and India first and if we don't, we have to work harder against Holland and Germany.
"If we get a good start, I have high hopes for the semifinals, then we reassess where we are at."
The other team in New Zealand's pool is Belgium, a prickly opponent but one that should be beaten.
Veteran Phil Burrows is at his third Games, being part of a team that was sixth in Athens and seventh in Beijing.
He was captain for three years between Beijing and London only to lose the role to defender Dean Couzins.
The setback is behind him and the former striker hopes to make an impression in his attacking midfield role.
"I fit in better in the midfield these days," Burrows said.
"I'm quite fit so I can cause a bit of trouble up and back.
"Childsey [Simon Child] and the other strikers are doing a great job up front, so it's been a good move.”
New Zealand are playing down three heavy defeats to Australia last month.
It seems a fair bit of cat and mouse has gone on across the world in the leadup to the Olympics and some results could be turned on their head.
The Black Sticks have two early starts and are taking measures to cope with 6am wakeups for 8.30am games.
Couzins said it was expected all players would have their curtains closed and computers and phone switched off by 9pm.
The campaign starts on Monday night (NZ time) against South Korea, who are ranked No 6 in the world. Fairfax NZ
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