Friday, July 12, 2024

Hockey World Cup: New Zealand hail ‘greatest game’ to set up Belgium clash

Bhubaneswar — New Zealand goalkeeper Dominic Dixon hailed the heroic shoot-out win over hosts India as “hands down” the best moment of his hockey career as the Black Sticks advanced to the World Cup quarter-finals.

Dixon played 60 minutes of normal time before Leon Hayward came on for the shoot-out, which ended after 18 attempts following a thrilling 3-3 draw in normal time.

Dixon, who had only played a handful of Pro League games before his World Cup debut, said: “It was amazing, we knew that it was going to be an experience, knew that we had to stick to the game plan. And I’m stoked we managed to do that.

“I have to say that for some of those moments I couldn’t hear myself think. The stark difference in that was incredible.”

A former footballer, Dixon took up hockey aged 13 when a friend told him a team was looking for a goalkeeper. “I haven’t looked back.”

Leon Hayward celebrates saving the final shoot out with Sam Lane PIC: Worldsportpics (Photo by WorldSportPics/Frank Uijlenbroek)

Dixon also hailed coach Greg Nicol, who nurtured him during his early Hawke’s Bay days. Now, he is set to face world champions Belgium on Tuesday in the last eight. They will do so as a semi-pro team, Simon Child admitting that New Zealand were essentially “volunteers” to be in India.

Dixon added: “It has its perks and it’s difficult at the same time. Everyone is fully committed and we love the underdog status.”

Sam Lane, who scored in normal time and the Black Sticks’ last shoot-out in sudden death, said: “It was absolutely crazy. One of the greatest games I’ve been involved in and it had everything in it. 

“The best thing about it was that we believed that we could create an upset like this. And that’s what happened.

“We talked a lot about what we can expect from the crowd and we were clear with our presses and this all helped massively.”

Lane also hailed Child, the pair linking up brilliantly as they scored late in the first-half.

“Simon’s world class and for so long,” added Lane. “He’s been out of the game, and to slot back in, it doesn’t happen to everybody.”

Nicol said he “truly believed” India could cause an upset by sending India crashing out. 

“Once we get some flow, penetration and winning corners, we are tough to stop,” he said afterwards.

“We train shoot-outs a lot, each player has one or two different options. The message was ‘back yourself, don’t do anything you haven’t done in training’ and hopefully they will get some hockey luck as well which needs to happen in a shoot-out.”

Total Hockey

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