Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Hockey: NZ remain upbeat despite defeat

New Zealand striker Krystal Forgesson (centre) pictured during New Zealands game against Germany. Photo / Supplied
New Zealand striker Krystal Forgesson (centre) pictured during New Zealands game against Germany. Photo / Supplied

Germany 3
New Zealand 1

It might be a case of putting on a brave face, but the Black Sticks are claiming plenty of positives out of yesterday's comprehensive defeat by Germany.

They were also upbeat about their quarter-final, despite drawing the daunting Dutch.

"It will be an awesome challenge and hopefully we rise to it," said striker Charlotte Harrison. "We haven't beaten them for a while and they are the benchmark.

"They are the world's top team and it is a chance to find out whether we are good enough," said coach Mark Hager. "We need to play to our potential to at least give ourselves a chance."

The Black Sticks face the Oranje Machine after finishing last in Pool B, although it was by some distance the stronger of the two groups. The Dutch have been the best team all week; solid across the park, a great blend of youth and experience and, as one journalist put it, every penalty corner they receive is "half a goal".

One glimmer of hope is that the match will be played at 12.30pm local time (4.30am NZT), and the Dutch melted a little in the afternoon heat in their group game against England.

There will also be less expectation on the Black Sticks, which takes off some pressure, but it will take a massive effort to get close to Holland.

Yesterday's match was virtually over after 20 minutes. The disciplined Germans were never going to let slip a 3-0 halftime lead, despite a massive lift in effort and execution from the Black Sticks in the second stanza.

It all came down to the first 20 minutes when they conceded three goals, two from penalty corners and all with a soft tinge about them.

"It was strange," Harrison said. "We didn't feel like we were playing that badly. It wasn't like we were terrible but somehow we were three behind."

The Black Sticks appeared flat. Compared to the vocal Germans, the Kiwis were quiet and could not get any flow. There were some elements of bad luck, and more strange calls from Chinese umpire Lin Mao.

Nevertheless, the Black Sticks were always under pressure in possession, struggling to find space and time from the suffocating German defence.

"They are always hard to play against," said Harrison. "They are physical and always well positioned and maybe we didn't adjust."

As they have been at various times during this tournament, they were also plagued by poor passing.

"Turnovers are killing us but we all know that," said Anita Punt, who scored in the second half.

After a stern halftime address from Hager, New Zealand lifted the tempo, accuracy and talk in the second half and their effort in maintaining pressure on the German defenders was particularly impressive.

"We still didn't create that much but the effort was there and our pressing was excellent," said Hager "We are still getting isolated at the back and making basic errors of judgement. But at least we responded."

Great Britain beat China 3-1 and the Netherlands disposed of Japan 4-1, who became the first team since Korea in 2005 to lose all of their first-round matches at a Champions Trophy.

Herald on Sunday writer Michael Burgess travelled to Argentina with assistance from Hockey NZ.

- Herald on Sunday

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