Black Sticks stun Argentina

Black Sticks co-captain Stacey Michelsen. Photo: Getty Images
Black Sticks co-captain Stacey Michelsen. Photo: Getty Images
They hadn't won a game in pool play but New Zealand saved their best until sudden death was staring at them in the quarterfinals of the Sentinel Homes World Hockey League at North Harbour last night.

The Black Sticks confounded all expectations by beating world No 3 Argentina 2-1 to advance to a semifinal against either England or the United States.

They bounced back from conceding a soft goal inside the second minute to Argentine captain Delfina Merino.

They showed plenty of heart to grab two of their own in the space of two minutes at the start of the third quarter, their best period of the match, then hung on for dear life as Argentina launched wave upon wave of attacks at them.

Goalkeeper Sally Rutherford was a hero for the fifth-ranked Black Sticks while midfielders such as Kelsey Smith and co-captain Stacey Michelsen were terrific through the park.

"It's a pretty awesome feeling," Michelsen said.

"I'm just so happy, and probably a little bit relieved."

Through pool play New Zealand had been poor in front of goal. This time penalty corners did the trick for them.

They scored two from their seven attempts in the match and importantly kept Argentina scoreless from their six set pieces.

Defender Brooke Neal scored the equaliser from a neat set play, the ball flying over goalkeeper Belen Succi.

The second rocked Argentina, midfielder Ella Gunson driving the ball towards Michelsen coming in from the left, and her deft stick work got the ball into the net.

The Black Sticks, instead of slowing play down, gave away too much soft ball late on but survived by a variety of means in the final, nerve-jangling minutes.

"We did a really good second half, the chances were there," Merino admitted.

South Korea caused an upset in the first quarter-final.

Having drawn 3-3 with sixth-ranked Germany, the Koreans were far superior in the penalty shootout, taking their chances impressively against a tentative German side to win it 3-1.

The Koreans linked arms and danced delightedly in a circle after the final goal.

"We had our chances and in the shootout. They are a strong side but we should have, and could have, won this game," disappointed German captain Janne Muller-Wieland said.

World No 1 Netherlands play China and England face the US in tomorrow's remaining quarterfinals.

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