Korea and Argentina got off to the best possible start on the opening day of the Four Nations tournament in Whangarei, New Zealand, emerging triumphant in their respective matches against the host nation and the USA. The Koreans worked hard for a 4-3 win against the Black Sticks, with Las Leonas powering to a 3-0 victory over Pan American rivals USA.
The Korea v New Zealand match was a fast paced contest with a nail-biting finish thanks to three second half goals from Charlotte Harrison, Sian Fremaux and Stacey Michelsen.
The visitors had the biggest share of possession in the first half, and deserved to take the lead when Yoo Jin Hong fired home from open play in the 14th minute. The Black Sticks had a chance to equalise through a penalty corner just before the half time whistle, but it was cleared well by the Korean defence.
The Black Sticks made a disappointing start to the second half, with Korea's highest capped player Mi Hyun Park scoring far too easily in the 36th minute. However, much to the crowd’s delight, the Kiwis returned to form when a slick move involving Pippa Hayward and Stacey Michelsen created the easiest of opportunities for Charlotte Harrison, who tapped in from close range.
The tempo picked up dramatically in the latter stages of the match, with Korea’s Da Rae Kim scoring twice before Sian Fremaux made it 4-2 with a smart finish into the bottom right corner. With five minutes of the match remaining, the Black Sticks were awarded a penalty corner and it took multiple shots from various players before Michelsen made it count.
The Black Sticks did all they could to equalise in the last couple of minutes, but it was not to be and the Koreans claimed the win.
“It is a disappointing result, obviously”, said New Zealand head coach Mark Hager shortly after the game. “It was a pleasing last phase of play and we had a couple of good opportunities right at the end. But we gave away two soft goals, and you can’t do that against a side like Korea and expect to get the results.”
Although the conditions were perfect for the Black Sticks game, it was a drizzly, overcast evening during the first half of the earlier Argentina v USA match.
Both teams were slow to get into the match before the opening goal arrived in the 16th minute, with 21-year-old Giselle Juarez scoring a field goal for Argentina.
In the second half, Delfina Merino scored from a penalty corner variation early on and although USA worked hard to keep possession and come back into the game, Argentina’s defence proved to be just too good. Las Leonas earned a string of penalty corners in the second period, one of which was converted by Argentina captain Macarena Rodriguez to finish the march scoring at 3-0.
Tomorrow’s schedule will see Korea take on USA and New Zealand will face Argentina. All games are being played in Whangarei this week, before teams head to Hamilton and Tauranga for the second tournament. More information about these games can be found on the Hockey New Zealand website.
Argentina 3 (Giselle Juarez, Delfina Merino, Macarena Rodriguez) USA 0. HT: 1-0 to Argentina.
Korea 4 (Yoo Jin Hong, Mi Hyun Park, Da Rae Kim x2) Black Sticks 3 (Charlotte Harrison, Sian Fremaux, Stacey Michelsen) HT: 1-0
Source material: Hockey New Zealand website
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