Black Sticks book World League semi-final spot
The women's Black Sticks overcame a sluggish first half effort to beat Japan 3-1 and book a spot in the semifinals at the World League hockey tournament in Rotterdam overnight (NZT).
Japan were a difficult opponent and New Zealand found themselves trailing 1-0 at halftime in the do-or-die cross-over match.
Their persistence paid off and the goals came in the second half from Krystal Forgesson, Anita Punt and Charlotte Harrison.
The win also means New Zealand have qualified for the World League Final tournament in December in Argentina, and a top-three place in Rotterdam will get them to the 2014 World Cup.
New Zealand coach Mark Hager was pleased with the way his team fought back in the second half against a staunch Japanese side.
“We knew Japan were going to be an organised, disciplined team - it was a tough game," he said.
"Obviously disappointing to concede early on, but at the end of the day it is about getting through and we did that."
The Black Sticks now have a day off, before playing Netherlands in the semi-final. The Netherlands thumped India 8-1 in their cross-over game.
New Zealand will be eager for revenge against the Dutch who beat them in a shootout in the semifinals at last year's London Olympics.
Japan took a shock 1-0 lead, two minutes into the game, when Sam Charlton tried to clear the ball, but accidently deflected it into her own net.
New Zealand dominated the first half, with eight shots on goal - including four penalty corners - to Japan's one, but they could not find breach Japan's consistently clinical defence.
In the second half, the fifth penalty corner of the game paid off when Forgesson, on a tight angle, took a cracking reverse shot and found the back of the net.
Punt then scored off New Zealand's sixth penalty corner, in the 54th minute, flicking the ball high over the keeper's head to put the Black Sticks in the lead for the first time in the game.
With the end of the game in sight, the score stretched to 3-1 from the eighth penalty corner when Punt again flicked it high and the second deflection fell to Charlotte Harrison who swept it home.
Japan played well above their ninth-ranked position and created several promising opportunities.
They had a one-on-one with Black Stick goalkeeper Bianca Russell which didn't go their way and then with seven minutes left on the clock a powerful drag-flick was right on target but was blocked by the keeper.
Punt said the team were confident of getting themselves back into the game in the second half if they stuck to their structures and remained patient.
“Yeah, we knew it was going to be a hard game," she said.
"We kept our composure and came back and finished how we wanted to. As a team, we are a new group and we still have a lot to learn, but we are doing really well."
The Black Sticks Men play their do-or-die quarter-final against Spain at 12.30am tonight (NZT).