Black Sticks women prepare for USA threat
In a measure of how far the Black Sticks women have come in the last couple of weeks, they were carrying long faces after their 2-1 loss to world No 2 Argentina at the Olympics yesterday.
In the past, coming within a goal of Argentina might've been grounds for a small party, but Kayla Sharland summed up the situation perfectly after the late night game in London.
"I'm used to losing to the Argentineans by three or four goals so it is good to get close, but I'm disappointed not to get there," she said.
Pool B is not called the pool of death for nothing.
As many predicted it has turned into a tight race, with four teams (Germany, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand) on six points with two rounds remaining.
The Black Sticks' next up opponent is the United States, but before you get excited they have beaten Argentina 1-0 and lost narrowly to Germany (2-1) and Australia (1-0).
Black Sticks coach Mark Hager regards the US as a genuine threat heading into tomorrow's match (6am NZ time).
"We've always thought they would be a threat," Hager said.
"They run all day, they are courageous, they are well coached by Lee Bodimeade and they are hard to score against so they are going to be a hard team to crack."
The Black Sticks have to win, or, at worst, draw. If they lose then a victory over world No 3 Germany on Tuesday may not be enough.
"I think we are in a good spot still," Hager said.
"If you had of told me we would only have one loss after three games I'd have taken it quite comfortably. The disappointing thing is we blew a chance (against Argentina) to kick away from the group but that is life."
Goal difference could yet to be a factor. The Black Sticks are +3, Argentina +4, Australia +2 and Germany +1. However, Hager is not contemplating that scenario yet.
"For us we have to win the next game, we are not concerned about that," Hager said.
"We have to get to nine points after four games. I'd rather go into the last day needing to win rather than needing to worry about goal difference."
The Black Sticks expect to have Emily Naylor back tomorrow.
She withdrew from the Argentina game with a recurrence of her bulging disc problem but Hager said the injury normally settled down after a couple of days. Naylor was down to play her 200th game.
Sharland was not making any excuses after the loss to Argentina.
She was at fault for the first goal when she failed to collect a pass from Clarissa Eshuis.
"I made a missed trap and they pounced on it and got a good shot away. Just bad basics."
She also said the 9.15pm start was not an excuse for their slow beginning. Their previous two games have been early morning affairs, resulting in victories.
"We have practised it before. It was just a very long day waiting around."
Anita Punt took a painful blow on an elbow late in the game but Hager did not believe it was serious.