Home Sports New Zealand men book Olympic hockey berth

New Zealand men book Olympic hockey berth


Auckland : The New Zealand men’s hockey team edged past Argentina 3-2 through a ‘golden goal’ in extra time in the final of a qualifying tournament here Sunday to book a berth for the Beijing Olympics.

New Zealand is the 10th team to qualify for the men’s competition after China, South Korea, Pakistan, South Africa, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Australia, who all qualified last year.

The last two vacancies will come from the Olympic qualifying tournament in Chile March 1-9 when India will also be in the fray. The third and last qualifying contest will be held in Japan April 5-13.

Before the final Sunday, France pulled a surprise 2-1 win over Ireland to win the bronze medal and Trinidad & Tobago registered their first victory of the tournament 3-2, to take the fifth place.

In the dramatic final, Argentina were the stronger team in the initial phase and took a 1-0 lead when Lucas Vila deflected a penalty corner hit from brother Matias into the roof of the goal.

Unable to capitalise on their early advantage, Argentina had to watch New Zealand increasingly gain momentum. The Kiwis gained the equaliser through Dave Kosoof in the 49th minute but Argentina pulled one back three minutes later when Mati Vila sunk a penalty corner.

With the pace of the game getting frantic, Argentina could no longer produce their earlier supreme performance, and had to watch the match slip away.

After a string of chances for New Zealand, Hayden Shaw gave New Zealand the relieving equaliser with four minutes to go to keep alive their hopes of the Olympic tournament and take them to extra time.

In extra time, play went back and forth without either team able to make a break, but it was eventually New Zealand that got lucky, taking full advantage of a penalty corner with only seconds on the clock.

The Black Sticks’ elation and their fans’ celebrations came, of course, in stark contrast to the tears of the Argentines, who for quite a while could not grasp the fact that they had let their ticket to Beijing slip from their hands a second time.