The New Zealand women's hockey team has set up a must-win group match with trans-Tasman rivals Australia as their semifinal hopes at the World Cup remain alive.
The Black Sticks downed Japan 4-1 in their fourth group match, at The Hague this morning, taking their record to two wins and two losses.
World No 1 the Netherlands then downed Australia 2-0 with two late goals to ensure New Zealand fight another day.
The hosts are through to the last four, with a maximum 12 points from their four matches, with the dogfight on for the second spot from group A.
Australia have nine points but could be caught by New Zealand, who have six. The arch rivals square off at 8.30pm tomorrow (NZT) in a match the Kiwis simply must win.
New Zealand would also need the Dutch to beat or draw with South Korea (seven points) in their final match to progress to the semifinals.
Against Japan, Anita Punt scored a double with Sophie Cocks and Katie Glynn also netting in a victory that kept Kiwi hopes alive.
''We did well today to come away with a result. We still lacked some finishing up front but we were able to put away some goals and two penalty corners,'' Black Sticks coach Mark Hager said.
''Unfortunately we had a bad game against Korea (surprise 1-0 loss) and that could come back and bite us in the bum ... it's down to our game against the Aussies and goal difference.''
With no shortage of motivation, the Black Sticks were on form today from the opening whistle.
The Kiwis opened the scoring in just the fifth minute after Cocks deflected a Punt drag flick past the goalkeeper.
Japan solidified their defence following the goal and the scoreline remained 1-0 to the Black Sticks at halftime.
But three minutes into the second half Punt was in the spotlight again when she rocketed a penalty corner flick into the net.
The momentum continued and Glynn knocked a reverse shot past the keeper just one minute later to give the Black Sticks a 3-0 buffer.
The Black Sticks lifted their intensity after Japan dragged a goal back and finished strongly with Punt scoring a well-worked field goal on the reverse stick to seal the result.
Meanwhile, the men's Black Sticks are set for a crucial pool match against Germany at 8.30pm tonight.
NZ 4 (Anita Punt 2, Sophie Cocks, Katie Glynn) Japan 1 (Yuki Nagai). HT: 1-0.
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