Bhubaneswar: Argentina’s almost ensured their spot in the World Cup quarter-finals with a 3-0 win over New Zealand at the Kalinga hockey stadium here on Monday.
A win against France (on Thursday), the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, will seal the Olympic champions’ quarter-final spot. On Monday, they were in control of the match except for the first 10 minutes.
The first half was an exhibition of fine defending. Argentina thwarted New Zealand’s penalty corner and a couple of fine attempts in scoring a field goal.
New Zealand had the upper hand in the first 10 minutes of the start. But once settled in, the Argentines’ possession improved, they attacked more and shot at the goal five times. Employing full-press, they invaded New Zealand’s penalty circle nine times but ‘keeper Richard Joyce and the Kiwi defence regiment guarded their net amid high tension.
But with a three-second spectacle – wherein, Agustin Mazzilli, from the right, tomahawked the ball fluidly into the net after Gonzalo Peillat, from the opposite flank, slingshotted it to him – Argentina led 1-0, seven minutes short of the second quarter’s end. Mazzilli, in Argentina’s previous match against Spain, had equalised twice.
The Kiwi ‘keeper was troubled again, within five minutes of the third quarter, when the dangerous Peillat attempted to double Argentina’s lead with his drag-flick in his team’s second penalty corner. But Joyce was upto the task.
The wait for a second goal, however, didn’t prolong much for the Olympic champions. In the 41st minute, Lucas Vila doubled the lead with an emphatic finish from the goalmouth. The forward tussled with Blair Tarrant on the edge of the circle and smashed it to the right top corner.
The Kiwis let slip a chance in the last minute of the penultimate quarter. Jared Panchia, in the goalmouth, struggled to trap a cross that was directed to him from the left. Argentina hammered the final nail on the coffin with five minutes to end when Lucaz Martinez converted his team’s third penalty corner.