Hockey: Koreans will demand sharper cohesion

By David Leggat

Gemma Flynn of New Zealand.
Gemma Flynn of New Zealand.

It's time for the talking to stop and players to raise their game, according to Black Sticks captain Kayla Sharland.

Having been well beaten, 5-2 by world No 1 and Olympic champions the Netherlands in their World League 3 semifinal in Rotterdam yesterday, New Zealand's task is clear when they play Korea late tonight.

The 12-team World Cup is the target and the world's No 3-ranked team should be there. Beat Korea, finish third, and they'll be in The Hague next June.

They know the Koreans well - they were in New Zealand in April for a couple of four-nation tournaments.

The most recent clash produced a 5-1 win for the Black Sticks in Tauranga but it promises to be a difficult contest against their eighth-ranked oppponents.

"We've played them many a time and know what they're like," Sharland said yesterday.

"They pack their defence and look to counter attack. That's the way they score their goals."

The loss to the Dutch, who rattled on their first three goals in the opening 15 minutes as New Zealand defensively went to sleep, highlighted problems the Black Sticks have been working to eradicate. There are no second chances now, Sharland admitted.

"We just need to tighten up defensively and make better decisions in the attacking third. We've talked about it the whole tournament. We just need to make it click in the next game."

Failure to grab their scoring opportunities proved costly against the Netherlands.

Gemma Flynn, Katie Glynn and Charlotte Harrison all had opportunities but Sian Fremeaux' bad miss in front of an open goal was pivotal. It came 15 minutes after halftime, the score still 3-1 and New Zealand having their best period in the game.

"It's a pity we didn't put one away early. If we did we would have got on a roll and could have pushed forward from there. They definitely put away their chances and we didn't," Sharland said.

Although the defence had its wonky moments, goalkeeper Bianca Russell's strong form will be a source of encouragement going into the Korean match. The North Harbour keeper was decisive and alert. Without her contribution, the scoreline could have been worse.

Once they gained a measure of self-belief, the Black Sticks contested on an even footing with the Olympic champions for much of the second half. Retain that against a Korean team who play a far different style from the Dutch and they'll be in good shape to finish third.

The Netherlands will play world No 5 Germany in the final early tomorrow. In the other games to decide final placings, Japan play Belgium for fifth and sixth spots, while India meet Chile for seventh and eighth.

The New Zealand men were playing their semifinal against Belgium early today.


What's at stake

• New Zealand play Korea for third and fourth places at the World League 3 tournament at midnight tonight.

• The winner gets a pass into next June's World Cup in The Hague.

• If New Zealand are beaten, they must win the Oceania Cup tournament, in Stratford, in late October to progress.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 24 Jul 2014 15:10:31 Processing Time: 469ms