The New Zealand men's hockey team learned the hard way that
hockey can be a game of inches, as their medal hopes at the
Champions Trophy came to an end today.
The Black Sticks, who finished bottom of their pool and were
forced to face world No3 Netherlands in the quarterfinals,
went down 2-0 in Melbourne to be consigned to the
The Dutch scored a goal in each half and largely controlled
the match while New Zealand's best two chances, both from
penalty corners, went agonisingly wide of the target.
There is still plenty to play for but New Zealand's medal
drought at a major international event - dating back to the
gold-medal winning 1976 Olympic side - extended with a second
straight tournament disappointment.
New coach Colin Batch, who took over from Shane McLeod after
a ninth-place finish at the London Olympics, must now
motivate his young side for Saturday's opening classification
match against Germany, surprise losers against Pakistan.
The Black Sticks lost 3-2 to the Olympic champions in pool
play, and they have to better that result to remain with a
chance of finishing fifth and automatically qualifying for
the next edition of the tournament in two years' time.
Even if that opportunity goes begging, the Champions Trophy
hasn't been a complete loss for New Zealand. With a number of
senior players making themselves unavailable for selection,
the youngsters blooded by Batch have not been out of their
depth on the international stage.
Goalkeeper Hamish McGregor, who came into the tournament with
one cap to his name, again impressed and denied the Dutch a
more comfortable victory.
As it was, the Black Sticks were left to regret a shooting
radar which slightly misfired at a couple of key moments.
Shea McAleese dragged his shot narrowly wide of the post from
his side's first penalty corner in the opening minutes,
before Jeroen Hertzberger showed more accuracy for the
Netherlands and fired high past McGregor midway through the
The Dutch had a couple of decent chances from open play and
earned their third penalty corner late in the half, but it
was saved well by McGregor away to his right.
New Zealand were unable to consistently test the Dutch
defence, before a penetrating run from Simon Child earned
another penalty corner late in the half. A nice variation
gave Nick Wilson some space but his bullet of a shot sailed
just wide to leave New Zealand trailing at the half for a
fourth straight match.
The Black Sticks' task became more difficult 10 minutes into
the second spell when a rapid counter attack culminated in
Billy Bakker tapping in, and a tiring New Zealand could find
no way back into the match.
Netherlands 2 (Hertzberger, Bakker) New Zealand
0 HT: 1-0