Black Sticks win shootout thriller vs Argentina
The Black Sticks men are through to the top four at the World League Final in India after beating Argentina 4-3 in a shootout after drawing 1-1 in regulation time.
Blair Hilton was the hero of the night getting the final goal in the shoot-out to secure the semi-final spot against England.
In regulation time, New Zealand dominated the first half and went 1-0 up thanks to a Kane Russell drag flick. But it was a different story in the second half with Argentina piling on the pressure.
"Throughout this tournament we have been very up and down with our play, and we saw elements of that tonight,'' said NZ head coach Colin Batch.
''We need to play right through the match if we are going to be a regular top four team.
"The team are enjoying the win at the moment, we will debrief it tonight and then we have two days to prepare against England.
"We are pleased to be playing England, we expect that we will play much better than we did during pool play.
''England are a top side and they have proved that already winning all four games at the tournament."
Batch noted Shea McAleese, goalkeeper Devon Manchester and Russell as stand outs from the win, but said it was pleasing to see everyone in the team contributing and having a better performance.
In a game that was fast-paced and combative, the Kiwis played with the structure and speed that Batch was looking for.
The pressure paid off and they were handed the chance to double their lead when a penalty stroke was awarded and captain Dean Couzins stepped up, only to see his stroke hit the post.
In the second half, only determined defending maintained the Black Sticks' narrow lead. For the first 15 minutes of the second half Argentina were camped in the New Zealand half of the pitch.
With 20 minutes left on the clock and New Zealand hoping their semi-final spot was booked, Argentina's Matias Paredes scored from open play.
Drawn at fulltime, the teams began the penalty shootout. At the end of the first round, both teams remained tied with two successful penalty attempts each.
From there it was sudden death. First up, both Argentina and Hugo Inglis for New Zealand scored. Then, Argentina failed to score, and it was Hilton who became the hero of the hour as he took the ball wide around the goalkeeper and put New Zealand through to the semi-finals.
"This was an exciting way to win. We are really pleased with the first half, but there are still a lot of things we must improve," said Black Sticks captain Dean Couzins.
The semifinal against England is at 1.15am Saturday (NZ time).