Keeping a cool head did the trick for New Zealand as they clinched their place in the World League final after a sudden death penalty shootout against England in New Delhi today.
New Zealand ranked No 7, beat fourth-ranked England 7-6 after the teams were locked 3-3 at fulltime, then couldn't be separated during the penalty shootout. So it went to sudden death, where Hugo Inglis, Simon Child, Steve Edwards and finally Phil Burrows scored to send New Zealand to their first tier one International Hockey Federation final since winning the gold medal at the Montreal Olympics in 1976.
New Zealand will play world No 3 the Netherlands in the final early on Sunday morning after the Dutch eliminated Australia 4-3 in their semifinal.
England had beaten the Black Sticks 5-1 in pool play earlier in the week, but New Zealand played far better in a rousing contest. They had beaten Argentina in another penalty shootout in their quarter-final. Once again, goalkeeper Devon Manchester had a fine game.
''We were really disappointed with our first match against England," man of the match Simon Child said.
''They are a really good team but we knew we were better than the 5-1 scoreline. We are a young team but we are growing in confidence and getting better and better with each game."
Coach Colin Batch was delighted with New Zealand's growing prowess in the penalty shootout phase.
''We are doing well on shoot outs, it was the difference between winning or losing," he said.
''The shoot-out lasts so long because the players are technically good and the goal keepers are getting better and better."
New Zealand's goals in regulation time came from Marcus Child early in the first half, then Stephen Jenness and Inglis in the space of a minute, nine minutes from the end, which had New Zealand 3-2 up.
However English star Ashley Jackson levelled it up a couple of minutes later, sending the contest to a nerve-rattling conclusion.
The shootout finished all square at 3-3, so the teams went to sudden death, where Burrows grabbed his chance after England player Harry Martin had been denied by the in-form Manchester.
''A lot of people will be surprised to see us in the final," Batch said.
Certainly on rankings they were not expected to make the title decider, but saved their best performance until the semifinal and got a terrific reward.
New Zealand last played the Netherlands in the third-fourth playoff at the World League semifinal stage in Rotterdamlast June, losing 4-1.
In other games, world No 1 Germany were surprisingly beaten 5-4 by hosts India while Belgium beat Argentina 3-1.
The Germans will now face Argentina in the playoff for seventh and eighth places, while Belgium and India will meet to decide fifth and sixth spots. Australia and England will contest the third-fourth match.