Fair cop. We choked...if that's how you want to put it.
That is the response from the heartbroken hockey men, after their extraordinary late quarterfinal capitulation against the powerful Germans in Rio. What was shaping as a great moment in New Zealand sport turned into an unforgettable disaster, a 2-0 lead being overturned in the final minutes.
A Herald poll saw 65 per cent of respondents apply the choke term to the Black Sticks, who conceded three goals in the last five minutes, two of them inside the final minute.
Defender/midfielder Shea McAleese said they would take the choking accusations on the chin.
The final German goal, with just over a second left, came after a cross eluded five retreating Kiwi defenders to reach Florian Fuchs, who nailed the winner.
McAleese told Radio Sport's Martin Devlin: "The disappointing thing is we didn't handle the pressure so well especially when they went to 11 field players. It's criminal to give away three goals in 4 minutes 36 seconds, especially two goals in the last 48 seconds.
"We can get accused of that (choking) for sure...it's a common word used for sport when in lead and toppled at the death.
"If people want to say that it's their right. I won't accuse them of anything against us - in some respects we did. It's happened, we can't change it, we can learn from it.
"It's a big learning curve...we're not usually in front against the top teams - we need to learn how to close out these matches. Unfortunately we couldn't come to grips with it."
McAleese said the players handled the agony in their own various ways immediately after the game.
"It was pretty solemn...there were a few guys left out on the pitch, a few in changing room, a few changed quickly. We got a bit disbanded. People process heartbreak a little bit differently. It's best thing to let them handle it in their own time.
"Even though the hockey world may have written us off we always had the natural belief in our group. We had a really good game plan and were confident we could topple them.
"I've never witnessed anything like this in hockey before and I don't think we will ever see it again. It's pretty tough - we let that game slip away."