New Zealand can celebrate its spot in the Rotterdam World League Semi-Final game
New Zealand can celebrate its spot in the Rotterdam World League Semi-Final game
(Photo: Frank Uijlenbroek)

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New Zealand – Japan 3-1 (0-1 halftime)

New Zealand became the first team to earn a berth in the Semi-Finals at the Rabobank Hockey World League Semi-Finals with a too-close-for-comfort 3-1 win against Japan.

New Zealand entered the tournament as the second-highest seeded team, ranking third in the FIH World Ranking. But a second place finish in their preliminary round group pitted them against dangerous Japan in today’s quarterfinal. The Japanese proved to be a tough opponent, playing hard for the entire 70 minutes, but ultimately, New Zealand’s determination won out in the battle.

Japan wasted no time getting on the board when they scored in the first minutes of action with a little help from New Zealand, which scored the own goal. The deficit did little to slow New Zealand down, which dominated the first half action after falling behind. The Black Sticks had multiply penalty corner chances, but could not find the back of the goal until Krystal Forgesson put in a rebound on a short corner chance five minutes into the second half to end the frustration.

The game stayed deadlocked for another 15 minutes as New Zealand continued to apply steady pressure, but with no luck. Finally, Anita Punt gave New Zealand their first lead of the game in the 54th minute, firing in a short corner shot into the upper corner of the net – a truly unstoppable shot for Japanese goaltender Ryoko Oie.

Despite the excellent goaltender from Oie, Japan could do little as New Zealand continued to pound away at the Japan goal. Charlotte Harrison iced the win for the Kiwis with just under five minutes left in the game, putting the nail-in-the-coffin 3-1 goal to seal the spot in Thursday’s Semi-Final.