Commonwealth Games, women’s hockey semifinal: England vs Black Sticks: Where: University of Birmingham Hockey & Squash Centre, Birmingham. When: Saturday, August 6, 5am (NZ time). Live coverage: Sky channel 59 (Birmingham 4), updates on Stuff.
The women’s Black Sticks have gold in their sights again after clinching their place in the Commonwealth Games semifinals by trouncing South Africa 4-1 on Thursday (Friday NZ time).
The reigning Commonwealth champions play hosts England in the last four in Birmingham at 5am on Saturday (NZ time) in a rematch of last month’s World Cup fixture which the Kiwis won 3-
The Black Sticks had to beat South Africa in their final match of Pool B to guarantee a top-two finish they needed to advance to the semifinals.
Three goals in three minutes from Tessa Jopp, Tyler Lench and Hope Ralph in the first quarter got them off to the perfect start after losing 1-0 in their previous pool match to the tournament favourites, Australia. Kaitlin Cotter made it four in the final quarter.
The Black Sticks stunned Australia in the 2018 final on the Gold Coast, winning 4-1 in the gold medal match for their first Commonwealth title.
However, they haven’t come close to another success since, with a quarterfinal exit at last year’s Tokyo Olympics and a fifth-placed finish at last month’s World Cup in Spain and the Netherlands.
Ranked eighth in the world, the Kiwi side captained by Megan Hull have joined Australia, England and India in the Commonwealth Games semifinals and will have to roll over the unbeaten hosts, who are the world No 4 team, after they won pool A with four wins.
The Black Sticks opened their campaign with a 16-0 thrashing of Kenya before edging Scotland 1-0.
There were positive signs despite the loss to world No 3 Australia and the big win over South Africa, while expected, was an emphatic finish to the pool stages.
The semifinal clash with England should be tougher, with the hosts lifted by a raucous home crowd, although the Black Sticks did beat the English a month ago at the World Cup before their 1-0 quarterfinal defeat to Germany.
Whatever happens, the Black Sticks are guaranteed to be playing for a medal against Australia or India on Monday morning (NZ time).
If they overcome England, it will be for gold. If they lose, it will be bronze.
Meanwhile, the men’s Black Sticks failed to qualify for the semifinals after losing their final pool match 4-3 against South Africa on Thursday (Friday NZ time).