Black Sticks have chance to create own fate

SIMON PLUMB IN LONDON
Last updated 20:10 05/08/2012

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Hockey

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Beat Germany, and the women's Black Sticks are guaranteed a place in the Olympic semi-finals.

Otherwise, the medal shot is in the hands of the mathematicians.

From 7.30pm through to 8:15am tomorrow a fascinating script will unfurl on the women's Olympic hockey tournament.

And while the good news is the Black Sticks' fate is in their own hands. The bad news is, one of the world's best teams stands in their way.

Ranked third in the world, Germany traditionally cause New Zealand (6) big problems.

Over their last 10 meetings the Kiwis have lost six times, including a 5-1 pounding in Bremen last month.

After struggling to an important 3-2 win over the United States on Sunday morning (NZT) Black Sticks coach Mark Hager, the man who has turned around the national women's team in two years, pointed to the disappointing last performance in north-west Germany as a major warning.

Potentially, it's a game New Zealand could lose and still make it through to the medal matches - but they would also need Argentina to beat Australia to emerge from a log-jammed group.

However, Hager - honest and uncompromising - refuses to play the odds game. Tonight his girls will be briefed to go out and claim three points.

"The good thing is we're the masters of our own destiny. Win or draw, and we're in with a chance," Hager said.

"There'll be a nothing to lose attitude, we haven't beaten them at a major tournament, the girls know that.

"They gave us a flogging a few weeks ago, 5-1. We weren't in very good form at that stage but I feel we're playing a bit better.

"They're very disciplined and very structured. We're going to have to make sure we are as well."

To find success against the Germans, Hager also knows his side must be much more ruthless in front of goal.

Despite dominating most of the 3-2 win over the USA, it was a game which New Zealand should have polished off at halftime - but for a recurring lack of edge in front of goal.

The Americans had two shots on goal and scored them both. New Zealand had 20 shots, and still had to rely on a Clarissa Eshuis drag flick six minutes from time.

"Creating chances is the number one priority, if we weren't doing that I'd e more worried," Hager said.

"We've just got to make better shot selections.

"I'm pleased we've got a sniff, that was always the goal ahead of what we knew was going to be such a tight pool.

"We wanted nine points after four games, we knew if we did that we'd be a show.

"We've done that, we just need to finish it off now."

The situation:

The women's Black Sticks will qualify for the semi-finals if:
- They beat Germany
- They draw against Germany and Argentina beat Australia
- They draw against Germany and Argentina draw with Australia
- They lose to Germany by four goals or less and Argentina beat Australia

The women's Black Sticks will miss the semi-finals if:
- They draw against Germany and Australia beat Argentina
- They lose to Germany by more than five goals
- They lose to Germany and Australia beat Argentina

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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