Black Sticks to take game to Hockeyroos
Sat, 28 Jul 2012 9:59a.m.
The Black Sticks women will use the lessons learned from a painful Commonwealth Games final defeat when they open their Olympic hockey campaign against the Hockeyroos.
A loss on penalty strokes in Delhi two years ago was tough to stomach for the Mark Hager-coached side and he says they know they must come out of the blocks faster for Sunday's first match at the Riverbank Arena.
"We were a bit timid in the way we played, whether we thought because we had already won a medal that was good enough, but I know that we've learned a lot from that and we won't sit back and wait to see what will happen this time," said Hager.
"We can't afford to do that. If we sit back and wait, Australia will punish us - we know that. We have to be aggressive and push just as hard as they do and take no backward steps."
Both teams know each other inside out, having faced each other nine times in the past 18 months with a three win, three loss, three draw record.
Those regular fixtures mean Hager knows where the seventh-ranked Hockeyroos will attack them, identifying their prowess from penalty corners and the high pressure came as facets the Blacks Sticks, ranked one place higher, must be wary of.
With world top-three sides Argentina and Germany also in pool B, the match will play a big part in determining who will make the semi-finals and Hager is eager that the Black Sticks take an early lead.
"The last time we played we conceded three goals in 10 minutes and fought really hard to get back into the game. It tends to be a bit of a trend - whoever gets up early wins the game," the former Australian striker said.
But if the Black Sticks did lose, Hager says their hopes of a medal may not be lost with both South Africa and the United States capable of causing an upset in the six-team group. NZN
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