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Points from opening matches crucial for men’s hockey side

The New Zealand men’s hockey team are targeting their first three matches in Tokyo to keep on track for a quarterfinals spot.

Head Coach Darren Smith says it’s crucial to get points from their opening three games starting with India on Saturday, despite India having a world ranking four spots higher than the ninth-ranked Kiwis.

“It’s a strong pool but we’ve definitely been focused on that opening match against India as one we’d like to get three points from.”

Next up in Pool A New Zealand will face Spain, who’ve they’ve always had tight encounters with, and then the home side Japan who Smith says will not be easy beats despite their world ranking at 15.

“Japan have steadily got better over a number of years. We played them in Tokyo in a test event two years ago and they were physical and very quick.”

The Kiwis’ last two pool matches don’t get any easier as they face world no. 1 Australia and defending Olympic champions Argentina.

The team arrived in Tokyo on Sunday after disrupted preparations which saw them stuck in Perth for an extra week after the FIH Pro League matches against Australia.

“It was tough but we certainly locked in our Covid scenarios practice in Perth which will be part of our daily lives in Tokyo. And it was good to play Australia again,” said Smith.

The good news on returning from Perth was that the injured pair of Waikato defender Nic Woods and Wellington striker and current New Zealand Player of the Year Jacob Smith had recovered from the injuries that saw them miss the Perth matches.

Darren Smith highlighted the team’s talented forward line with three players attending their third Olympics – Hugo Inglis, Nick Wilson and Stephen Jenness – as ones to watch in Tokyo, while captain Blair Tarrant and four-time Olympian Shea McAleese will provide a rock solid defence.

“We’ve also got two vitally important drag flickers in Nic Woods and Kane Russell and some exciting young players like Sean Findlay and Dylan Thomas heading to their first Olympics.”

In a recent rule change, the Olympic hockey squads have been expanded to 18 players with 16 to be named for each match. North Harbour striker George Muir and Canterbury defender David Brydon have been added to the New Zealand men’s squad.

New Zealand Men: Steve Edwards, George Muir (North Harbour); Leon Hayward (GK), Jared Panchia (Auckland); Nic Woods (Waikato); Sean Findlay, Shea McAleese, Dylan Thomas (Hawke’s Bay); Nick Wilson (Manawatu); Stephen Jenness, Dane Lett, Jacob Smith (Wellington); David Brydon, Sam Lane (Canterbury); Hugo Inglis, Nick Ross, Kane Russell, Blair Tarrant (Otago).

For player profiles and statistics including caps, goals and shirt numbers click here.

New Zealand Men’s matches in Tokyo (NZ time):

Sat 24 July 1pm: vs India (world ranking 5)
Sun 25 July 11.45pm: vs Spain (8)
Tue 27 July 2.45pm: vs Japan (15)
Thu 29 July 12.15am: vs Australia (1)
Fri 30 July 10pm: vs Argentina (4)
Sun 1 August: Quarterfinals                           
Tue 3 August: Semifinals                              
Thu 5 August: Final/bronze medal

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  • July 19th, 2021 in
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