The Vantage Black Sticks 2018 World Cup Campaign came to a halt on Tuesday Morning as the team was knocked out of the Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup by a determined English team.
The Vantage Black Sticks entered the World Cup looking to improve on their previous best finish of 7th place. The side featured 8 players who were returning from the team that competed at The Hague in 2014.
The Vantage Black Sticks were looking to get their campaign off to a strong start and came up against an improving French team that had held them to a draw the last time the sides met. The game was a close one which saw both sides construct several opportunities. The Vantage Black Sticks got their first goal of the tournament when Kane Russell drove the ball along the baseline and put in a reverse stick shot to put the Vantage Black Sticks up 1-0. The Vantage Black Sticks then extended their lead with a Stephen Jenness ripper of a shot before France scored one back to set up a tense final quarter. The Vantage Black Sticks held their nerve and secured the much needed 3 points to start their campaign off well.
As was the case in their previous game against France both teams were locked at 0-0 after 1 quarter of the game. Argentina found the Vantage Black Sticks defence napping to put themselves up 1-0 at the half time break. Argentina then extended their lead with goals in the 3rd and 4th quarters to put themselves up 3-0. The Vantage Black Sticks kept pushing to get themselves opportunities but were unable to break through the Argentina defence.
Game 3 was a must win game for the Vantage Black Sticks they found themselves behind by 2 goals as they entered the second half. With 10 minutes to go in the game Hayden Phillips rocketed a shot past the goalie that gave the Vantage Black Sticks a chance at getting a point from the game. Kane Russell tied it up with 4 minutes to go in the game as he flicked home a powerful drag flick that tied the game at 2 and sent the Vantage Black Sticks through to the cross over match of the Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup.
The new format meant that the top side from each of the pools went straight through to the quarter finals while the 2nd and 3rd ranked teams would play off in a cross over match to earn their spot in the quarterfinals. The Vantage Black Sticks were scheduled to take on England in their cross over match.
This was a win or go home match and this showed in how the teams were playing to start the match. England struck first when they showed some creativity along the base line before deflecting a ball home. They then extended their lead in the 3rd quarter which put the Vantage Black Sticks under a lot of pressure and forced them to chase the game and their survival in the tournament. They were unable to break through the stoic English defence and as a result their tournament ended at the cross over stage of the World Cup.
The Vantage Black Sticks left the Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup in the 2nd round. The tournament showed some great play from the Vantage Black Sticks and they created several opportunities on the offensive end of the field. They will be looking for an improved performance at both ends of the field as they now look towards the inaugural pro league where they will come up against 8 of the top sides in the world.