The New Zealand men's hockey team are through to the last four at the World League semifinal tournament in Rotterdam after a 1-0 win over Spain today.
The key moment came midway through the first half, from a brave, full length dive and stab into the Spanish net from close range by striker Hugo Inglis. The Black Sticks produced a stout-hearted display during which they came second in most areas of the statistics sheet, except the only one that really counted.
''It was an enormous team effort," coach Colin Batch said. ''All the players performed well and did an exceptional job towards the end."
The Black Sticks will now play Belgium, formerly coached by Batch, early on Saturday morning (NZT) for a place in the final. Belgium topped their pool and are unbeaten in the tournament.
The win for the world's sixth-ranked team over the seventh also kept New Zealand unbeaten in Rotterdam, and came off back-to-back defeats to Spain in warmup games en route to the tournament.
Spain had eight shots on goal to three by the Black Sticks, had 26 circle penetrations to 17 and 66 per cent of possession to 34 per cent in the opposition half, and the only four penalty corners of the match.
"It was an advantage to get a goal early and again we proved that defence is a cornerstone of our performance under pressure," Batch said.
New Zealand weren't without their chances, both Jacob Smith and Stephen Jenness going close in the second spell.
The result puts New Zealand into the finals in Delhi early next year and leaves them one win away from securing a spot at next June's World Cup in The Hague, with the top three finishers guaranteed a place in that tournament.
Ninth-ranked Belgium beat Ireland 6-3 to take their place in the semifinals, while world No 2 Australia, with a 5-1 win over India, will play Netherlands.
The world No 3 team beat France 8-4 to take their place in the last four.