Sticks keeper confident despite another loss

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 07/06/2014

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The New Zealand women's hockey team believe they can still make the top four at the World Cup, and their confidence remains high despite two losses on the bounce.

The Black Sticks were steamrolled 2-0 by the powerful Dutch yesterday.

New Zealand defended well, especially goal keeper Sally Rutherford, who celebrated her 33rd birthday with a number of difficult saves, but went nowhere on attack.

New Zealand now have one win from three games, and need things to go their way if they are to make the top two in Group A and the semifinals. They need to beat Japan well to improve their goal differential, then beat the world No 4 Australians, and hope the Dutch beat the Australians, too.

Australia and the Netherlands are both three from three in Group A, but the Netherlands have been far superior, scoring 12 goals and conceding just one. Australia have won all three of their games by a single goal.

Perhaps more worrying for Mark Hager's New Zealand side is the fact they need to score plenty of goals in their remaining games, especially against Japan.

After scoring four in the first 44 minutes against Belgium in their first game, New Zealand have now gone 166 minutes without finding the back of an opposition net.

Rutherford said that while their attack wasn't as good as it could have been against the Dutch, this was more about the hosts' slick defence than poor New Zealand play.

"We always wanted to go forward with pace - that's how we play. But the Dutch put us under a lot of pressure. I don't think we panicked or anything - they're just a very, very good side."

On the plus side, New Zealand kept out six of the Netherlands' seven penalty corners, and their in-circle defence came through a tough test reasonably well.

"In the first half, we weren't very good at all," Hager said.

"We defended OK, and Sally was good in the net, but we conceded too many [penalty corners] and weren't going forward with the ball."

The Black Sticks will need to lift on attack if they are to beat Japan well and then upset the Australians.

"[The loss to the Dutch] was a large step up for us from the Korea game," Rutherford said.

"We knew we didn't play very well against Korea, and we're confident we can go on in this tournament. We're confident because there's not too much different for us. We were always going to have to beat Japan and beat Australia to get through. We'll have to play very well to give ourselves a crack.

"But we're masters of our own destiny - well, provided the Dutch beat the Australians."

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New Zealand play Japan at 3.30am tomorrow (NZ time).

Result: Netherlands 2 (Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel 4, Kim Lammers 30) New Zealand 0. HT: 2-0.

Women's Group A (after three matches): Netherlands 9, Australia 9, South Korea 4, New Zealand 3, Japan 1, Belgium 0.

- The Press

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