Black Sticks men into World League semifinal
The Black Sticks men's hockey team have joined the women's side in reaching the semifinals of the World League tournament in Rotterdam.
A 14th-minute, diving strike from Hugo Inglis saw the New Zealand side beat Spain 1-0 and remain unbeaten at the tournament.
They will now meet Belgium on Saturday morning (NZT) for a place in the final.
The top-four finish the Black Sticks have now earned also qualifies them for the World League Round Four tournament - the convoluted tournament's final round.
A top-three finish over the next few days in the Netherlands will also earn the Kiwis automatical qualification to the World Cup next year in The Hague.
This morning's match was always likely to be a tight one with New Zealand ranked sixth in the world and Spain seventh, and the Black Sticks were perhaps lucky to get past a gritty Spanish side this morning.
The Spanish had more ball and more chances, but the New Zealand defence held, often keeping the Spanish out with the final tackle.
Keeper Devon Manchester made a handful of top-quality saves to keep his clean sheet.
Coach Colin Batch said getting on the board in the first 15 minutes was the perfect start and allowed the team to focus, again, on defence.
"It was an advantage to get a goal early, and again we proved that defence is a cornerstone of our performance under pressure," Batch said.
"Full credit to every player out there today, it was an enormous team effort. All players performed well and did an exceptional job towards the end."
Batch is the former Belgium head coach and was fizzing about having a crack at a team he helped build.
"It's a bit strange to be playing against them but that's the way it goes," he said.
"Belgium are playing great hockey but I'm confident we have the skills to match them."
Belgium, ranked ninth in the world, beat Ireland 6-3 in their match this morning and like New Zealand are unbeaten.
Australia will play hosts the Netherlands in the other semifinal after beating India 5-1 and the Dutch beat France 8-3.
The Black Sticks women play the Netherlands in their semifinal tomorrow at 6am (NZ time) and the men's semifinal on Saturday morning at 3am (NZ time) will be shown live on Sky TV.
Black Sticks 1: (Hugo Inglis) Spain 0
Halftime: Black Sticks 1-0