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Rio Olympics 2016: 'Big games are a weakness of ours' - Black Sticks coach

New Zealand's Liz Thompson reacts after her team lost 2-1 against Germany. Photo / AP
New Zealand's Liz Thompson reacts after her team lost 2-1 against Germany. Photo / AP

Black Sticks coach Mark Hager is not a man to pull any punches. Not even with many of his players in tears, and his own eyes red-rimmed.

For the second successive Olympics, the New Zealand women's hockey finished fourth but Hager wasn't about to make excuses.

The Black Sticks missed out on Olympic bronze in Rio, beaten 2-1 by Germany in the play-off overnight. Four years ago in London, they'd lost 3-1 to Britain at the same stage.

Hager's disappointment didn't stop him giving a candid assessment of where things went wrong, particularly after New Zealand's 4-2 dismantling of Australia in the quarter-finals.

"We do it well when things are going well, but when it's tough and hard, that's probably a weakness of ours," he said.

"We don't put the ball in the back of the net in the finals, in the big games - that's the disappointing thing."

At Deodoro Olympic Park, the Kiwis amassed 16 shots on goal to Germany's five, and forced six penalty corners to one.

It counted for little.

Germany scored twice within four minutes in the third quarter, but although the Kiwis hit back through Olivia Merry soon after, they couldn't find an equaliser.

The problem, Hager says, lies in finishing chances.

"We had some really good opportunities, and enough corners but we were just not clinical enough up front again," he said. "Under pressure, I think some of our players just panic on the ball when they should be a little bit calmer.

"You could say the Germans defended well, but I think it's a bit of both - they defended well, and we were not good enough in front of goal."

The problem wasn't inexperience, he added. Youngster Kelsey Smith aside, New Zealand has a lot of international know-how to call on in the attacking third.

"You look at what's up front - Gemma Flynn, Charlotte Harrison - they've got a hell of a lot experience. They've been round long enough, they've been in these sort of situations before.

"They've got to learn to be better in those situations."

Black Sticks skipper Kayla Whitelock said the defeat was frustrating more than anything.
"We tried hard, you can't blame the effort that was done by the girls, but it was just our execution in the attacking circle wasn't good enough today.

"When you you dominate like that, you should be on top but unfortunately we couldn't put the ball in the back of the net. Our execution wasn't up to it."

-NZN

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