Netherlands down Black Sticks with ease
The Black Sticks men's hockey team will have a nervous wait to see if they progress to the World League Final tournament in India next January.
A 4-1 loss to the Netherlands in Rotterdam overnight in the third-place playoff of the convoluted format's Semi-Final tournament means they must await the result of the other semi-final - in Malaysia next week - to learn of their fate.
The top three sides from each tournament progress to join India, who qualify as hosts, leaving one spot for the highest ranked fourth placed team. By that calculation, New Zealand still have a strong chance as they are currently ranked sixth in the world.
But should any of the top three ranked teams in Malaysia - Germany (1), England (4) or Pakistan (5) - finish fourth, they would progress as New Zealand missed their own chance in Rotterdam.
Against the run of play, veteran Phil Burrows opened the scoring in the 13th minute for the Black Sticks and the sides were level at 1-1 at the break.
The Dutch took control in the second half, however. Jeroen Hertzberger scored his second before Valentin Verga and Jalle Gallema both scored to put the game out of New Zealand's reach.
Black Sticks coach Colin Batch said it was a disappointing way to finish a tournament which also had many positives for his young side.
"I think tiredness set in during the second half. We fell behind and never got back into the game which wasn't good enough," he said.
"We played very well throughout the pool stage and against Spain in the quarter-finals so we have mixed feelings at the moment. We've got to develop further as a group but we continue to evolve our program and have made huge steps forward."
The playoff was also a chance for New Zealand to automatically qualify for next year's World Cup, also in the Netherlands.
Their next chance to do that is the Oceania Cup in Taranaki this October which they must now win to progress as one of five continental champions. Should the Black Sticks fail to win the tournament, they may also qualify as a result of their ranking.
- © Fairfax NZ News