London 2012: NZ women reach Olympic hockey semis for 1st time

London: New Zealand`s women reached the Olympic field hockey semifinals for the first time by knocking out Germany in a 0-0 draw at Riverbank Arena on Monday.

The surprising New Zealanders, who have come last three times in the Olympics, ensured they finished in the top two of Pool B, leaving Argentina and Australia to fight for the last spot in the last match of the day.

Germany, the 2004 champion, needed to beat New Zealand by three goals to have a chance of advancing, and had two goals disallowed.

New Zealand had not so much as drawn with Germany in eight years, and only three weeks ago was hammered 5-1 in a friendly.

"I was more anxious than the girls (before the Olympics)," New Zealand coach Mark Hager said.

"But I was listening to a couple of them talking to other people and they were saying, `Tell them to settle, we`re OK, we know where we`re at, we`ll be right, we`ll switch on when we`re ready.` And true to their word they have."

The Black Sticks had a poor Champions Trophy in February and were hampered by injuries, which didn`t help expectations.

"We set the program to peak at the Olympics, but you never know if you`re going to get it right," Hager said. "At this stage we`ve got it right. The players have stepped up."

New Zealand started and finished better while Germany were in charge before and after halftime in a match in which the goalkeepers starred, Bianca Russell for New Zealand and Yvonne Frank for Germany.

"I`m happy with the result but not so happy with the way we played, at least we hung on," Hager said. "As I said to the girls, it doesn`t matter how you win or draw or get to the semifinals, if it`s ugly it`s still well and good. Teams have played good hockey in the past and never made it. For this group I think it`s fantastic."

For Germany, it was just bitter disappointment.

"We are our biggest opponents, maybe it is mental," said Julia Mueller, who was sin-binned twice. "We have to grow up."

Later, Argentina could qualify with a win or draw over three-time champion Australia, which needed to win.

In Pool A, the defending champion Netherlands and Britain, who meet on Monday, were favored to advance, with only China a threat. China faced Japan.


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