Hockey: NZ know Spanish danger

By David Leggat

Veteran captain and defender Dean Couzins said last night. Photo / Getty Images
Veteran captain and defender Dean Couzins said last night. Photo / Getty Images

A couple of warmup games en route to the World League hockey semifinal tournament have suddenly assumed more significance for the New Zealand men ahead of their next game in Rotterdam.

The Black Sticks played world No7 Spain twice on their way to the event, losing 3-1 and 4-1 but picking up valuable experience against a nation they haven't faced much of late.

Just as well, as the countries meet in the must-win last eight clash early tomorrow (NZT).

To be guaranteed a place at the finals in Delhi in January, teams must finish in the top three in Rotterdam.

There was a 3-2 loss at North Harbour in December 2011, a single goal loss and 4-4 draw in a tournament in Germany in 2010, but precious little time has been spent on the field against the Spanish.

So No6-ranked New Zealand will rely on the progress made during the tournament - in which they finished second in their pool behind hosts the Netherlands - and a policy of focusing primarily on themselves rather than going into information overload on their opponents, which has been paying off.

"We'll talk about some of their strengths but what we've done well is [discuss] how we can improve," veteran captain and defender Dean Couzins said last night.

"And we have improved in three or four areas of our game nicely."

New Zealand know what to expect from Spain - Olympic silver medallists in Beijing five years ago - who have some skilled forwards and tend to put their faith in a small handful of attackers, and load up on the midfield, making counterattacking a tricky business.

The Black Sticks have scored 10 goals in their three pool games and have been pleased with work in that area.

In the other quarter-finals, Belgium (ranked ninth) play Ireland (15), Australia (2) face India (11) and the Netherlands (3) play France (17).

- NZ Herald

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