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Kiwis seal berth in final
June 29, 2007 12:25 IST
New Zealand [Images] held off a spirited Belgium for a 3-3 draw to confirm their berth in the final of the Champions Challenge hockey tournament for men in Boom, Belgium, on Thursday.
With a tally of 10 points from four matches, unbeaten New Zealand top the league table, followed by Argentina (9) and India (6). The league phase concludes on Saturday after Friday's rest day.
Five of the six goals came in an action-packed first-half. Thomas Briels (8th minute), Xavier Reckinger (17th) and Charles Vandeweghe (38th) scored for Belgium while the Kiwis replied through Simon Child (14th and 27th) and Dean Couzins (19th, penalty stroke).
Belgium put in their best performance of the tournament as they matched the Kiwis in virtually every department of the game. The hosts led twice, but the experienced Blacks Sticks fought back each time.
Also read: Prodigal India lose to Argentina
The topsy-turvy game almost provided a final twist when Belgium made it 3-3 and had the Kiwis under pressure in the last quarter but could not pull it off.
The Kiwis were trifle fortunate to come away with a point as a young and inexperienced Belgium dominated for much of the game and with a sharper finish, the home team could well have staged yet another upset like their win against Argentina earlier in the league.
In fact, the Kiwi defence appeared rather nervous and it was underlined by the third Belgian goal that came from a huge, diagonal scoop that caught the defence on the wrong foot. Vandeweghe snatched the ball from full-back Hayden Shaw to flick it home for the equaliser.