The Black Sticks men have finished their Olympic campaign without making the play-offs after going down 4-1 to Argentina in their final pool match tonight.
In the all-or-nothing game, the Kiwis needed a win or a draw to secure a quarterfinals spot with both teams sitting equal on four points chasing the last play-off spot.
The Argentine victory meant the Black Sticks finished fifth in Pool A and failed to grab a quarterfinals berth. The Kiwis had previously lost 4-2 to Australia and 3-2 to India, drawn 2-2 with hosts Japan and collected a 4-3 victory over Spain.
Today the Black Sticks sorely missed the experience of vice-captain Hugo Inglis and four-time Olympian Shea McAleese both out with hamstring injuries as was striker George Muir. Canterbury defender David Brydon again came into the match day squad.
In the first quarter the Black Sticks were building nicely, retaining possession and showing patience on when to push forward. On one of those occasions Nic Woods casually popped the ball onto an Argentine foot to win the first corner with a minute left in the quarter.
Step up Kane Russell, and the drag flick expert was again on the scoresheet with his fifth goal of the Olympics.
With a blink of the eye all that good work was undone with a Black Sticks’ own goal. And just minutes into the second quarter Argentina were 2-1 ahead with Lucas Martin Vila deflecting one in from the right post.
Two minutes before the end of the quarter, Argentina gained their first penalty corner of the match and thought they had won a penalty stroke from it when Nick Ross saved the corner on the line and the ball fell on his foot. After a video referral, the call was downgraded to a corner which Argentina couldn’t convert and they went into the break 2-1 ahead.
A scrappy third quarter went goal-less until the final minute when Jose Leandro Tolini converted with a lightning fast penalty corner high in to the left of the goal.
Despite the Black Sticks taking off their keeper Leon Hayward early in the final quarter to push for those equalising goals, it was Argentina who added to their score with Nicolas Santiago Keenan knocking an overhead into an open goal.
And at 4-1 to Argentina was sadly where the Black Sticks’ Olympic campaign came to an end.
Argentina 4 (Lucas Martinez 15 min, Lucas Martin Vila 17 min, Jose Leandro Tolini 44 min, Nicolas Santiago Keenan 60 min) New Zealand 1 (Kane Russell 14 min) Halftime: 2-1 Argentina.
New Zealand Men: Steve Edwards (North Harbour); Leon Hayward (GK), Jared Panchia (Auckland); Nic Woods (Waikato); Sean Findlay, Dylan Thomas (Hawke’s Bay); Nick Wilson (Manawatu); Stephen Jenness, Dane Lett, Jacob Smith (Wellington); David Brydon, Sam Lane (Canterbury); Nick Ross, Kane Russell, Blair Tarrant – captain (Otago).