Black Sticks women still have plenty to play for
The women's Black Sticks' third place playoff game against Korea at the World League hockey tournament has extra significance attached to it.
New Zealand were beaten 5-2 by Olympic gold medalists, the Netherlands, in their semi-final in Rotterdam on Friday.
While the Black Sticks will be disappointed not to be appearing in the final, they still have plenty to play for in their final game of the World League SemiFinal tournament.
New Zealand have already qualified for the World League Final in Argentina this December, but the goal is to beat Korea and guarantee themselves a spot in the 2014 World Cup. If New Zealand lose to Korea, they can still qualify for the World Cup through October's Oceania Cup tournament in Stratford.
The game is scheduled for midnight tonight, and will be live on Sky Sport.
The Netherlands effectively killed off any chance of a New Zealand win yesterday, scoring three goals in the opening 16 minutes of the game, to gain control.
Black Sticks' coach Mark Hager said his side were guilty of giving the ball away too easily - which the hosts took advantage of.
"There were too many turnovers and we had too many errors on defence. The Dutch played with more energy and intensity than us, and when you give the Olympic champions that many turnovers they will hurt you," Hager said.
"Our message at half time was to tidy things up, raise the tempo and stick to the game plan. We have young players who haven't played the Dutch before, so it was a tough, but good learning curve for them."
The Netherlands netted after just four minutes, when Margot van Geffen scored in a goalmouth scramble to give them the perfect start to the game.
The Dutch doubled their advantage in the 14th minute, when Kim Lammers deflected a vicious shot from Valerie Magis into the goal, to make it 2-0.
Things went from bad to worse for the Black Sticks, two minutes later, when Kelly Jonker found the back of the net from a great earlier pass from Ellen Hoog.
New Zealand had their best chance of the first half in the 22nd minute, but Gemma Flynn fired wide with a promising reverse flick chance.
The Black Sticks gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Petrea Webster pulled a goal back, 10 minutes out from halftime, to make it 3-1.
The Netherlands finished the first half strongly, and the Black Sticks had goalkeeper Bianca Russell to thank, for keeping the margin to just two goals at halftime.
It was an emphatic first-half performance from the Netherlands, as they enjoyed 71 per cent of possession and the better goalscoring opportunities.
The Netherlands made sure of the victory with 16 minutes left, when Lammers scored her second of the game to give them a 4-1 buffer. Kitty van Male added to New Zealand's woes shortly after, scoring the Netherlands' fifth goal, to cap off a pleasing performance for the home team.
To their credit, the Black Sticks kept fighting until the final whistle and added a late consolation goal through Katie Glynn.
The Netherlands will meet Germany in the decider.
- © Fairfax NZ News