Black Sticks men blow big lead to Germans
New Zealand's Black Sticks men have let slip a first-ever major tournament victory over reigning Olympic champions Germany.
Leading 5-2 just after half-time, three points would have lifted New Zealand's disappointing campaign from the depths of a ninth-placed playoff to have a chance of finishing seventh.
But they lost control of the match, leaking three second half goals, including one less than 90 seconds from the hooter, to let the Germans off the hook for a 5-5 draw.
The best the Black Sticks can now do at London 2012 is finish ninth, two places below their world ranking – throwing doubt over the future of their high performance government funding.
Germany meanwhile, progress to the medal matches.
In an extremely open, rain-soaked match, a glut of first-half goals saw New Zealand eke out an early 2-0 lead.
Nick Wilson opened the Kiwi account in the fourth minute soon followed by Richard Petherick who polishing off a penalty corner in the sixth.
Before the first 10 minutes of the match were over, the Germans, ranked third in the world and a team New Zealand traditionally struggles against, snatched one back through Oskar Deecke.
Stephen Jenness restored the two-goal cushion before the break and at halftime, New Zealand found themselves in a great position to claim a confidence-boosting win.
Shane McLeod's side have struggled at the Games and, even the Black Sticks coach admits, never recovered from an opening 2-0 loss to Korea.
But when his side went 4-2 up through Simon Child, and then 5-2 up through Child again with an exquisite close-range lob over Maximilian Mueller, it looked like they'd finally found their feet and were on for an historic win.
But summing up their campaign over the last fortnight, the Black Sticks faltered.
Ten minutes into the second half Thilo Stralkowski forced a German foot in the door and only four minutes later, started yanking it wide open when Christopher Zeller beat Kyle Pontifex.
With 20 minutes remaining the Kiwis desperately needed to ready the ship. And they did a decent job, repelling wave after wave of German attacks.
But 73 seconds from the end, the defences snapped – and it was Zeller again who hurt New Zealand.
The search for an elusive Olympic, World Cup or Champions Trophy win against the Europeans continues, as does men's Black Sticks' battle for something to cheer at London 2012.
The ninth-place playoff against Argentina is on Friday, 7.30pm (NZ time).