Hockey: Couzins confident Black Sticks can match Netherlands

Shea McAleese of New Zealand celebrates his goal. Photo / Getty Images
Shea McAleese of New Zealand celebrates his goal. Photo / Getty Images

Black Sticks 6
Korea 1

New Zealand captain Dean Couzins says belief won't be a problem in their must-win match against the Netherlands tomorrow after the Black Sticks kept their hopes alive in the Owen G Glenn Champions Trophy hockey tournament by demolishing South Korea 6-1 today.

The Black Sticks cut loose in the second half against the South Koreans at the North Harbour Hockey Stadium in Auckland, scoring four goals, with Shea McAleese bagging his second of the match 30 seconds after the restart.

Their combinations and control of possession showed a big improvement after a first half in which they looked a little nervous. That was due in part to the fact they had to win the match after losing 2-1 to Germany on Saturday.

Now New Zealand have to face a slick Netherlands outfit, which beat the Germans 3-2 earlier today.

"I don't think we will have too many problems with our belief,'' Couzins said. "

It's more about the performance and turning that belief into a really good game.''
Coach Shane McLeod added: "In the last six or seven years a lot of our players have played in Holland. A lot of that mystique about the Dutch game has gone now.''

The Kiwis will need to put together a complete performance in order to beat the Netherlands who played outstandingly at times against a similarly high-class Germany today.

Although the Black Sticks scored first against South Korea, with McAleese converting well after 26 minutes from a fine run through the middle by Steven Edwards, too often they turned over possession.

The Koreans equalised seven minutes later when Suk Hoon Cho bundled home from the far post after Phillip Burrows had lost the ball on attack.

However, Burrows quickly redeemed himself by putting the Black Sticks ahead before the break when tapping home from close range.

McAleese set the tone for the Kiwis when deflecting home a Nick Wilson drive shortly after halftime and from then on it was all New Zealand, with three goals coming in the final 18 minutes through Wilson, Shay Neal and Andrew Hayward, who scored with a penalty corner.

Goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex was on his game for the Black Sticks, making several saves, with Edwards, Wilson and Shay shining on attack.

McLeod bemoaned the Black Sticks' slow start but paid cred
it to his side's defence, saying "we are the masters of the scrambled defence''.

When asked what he thought of that, captain and defender Couzins replied: "I would prefer it was a bit more organised and a bit calmer.''

Looking ahead to tomorrow's match against the Netherlands, McLeod said: "It's not an easy match by any means. We have to play at our best to win that game but there's absolutely a lot of desire.''

Germany, currently second in Pool B alongside New Zealand, have an easier run in to the play-offs with a match against South Korea tomorrow.

Australia looked to have cemented their place in the play-offs with a 4-1 victory over Great Britain in Pool A earlier today. The winner of the Spain v Great Britain match tomorrow is likely to progress, with Pakistan winless from their two matches.

New Zealand 6 (Shea McAleese 2, Phillip Burrows, Nick Wilson, Shea Neal, Andrew Hayward) bt South Korea 1 (Suk Hoon Cho). HT: 2-1.

- APNZ

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