Hockey World Cup: Argentina, New Zealand score hard-fought wins

New Zealand players celebrate
New Zealand scrapped past France 2-1 in their opening match of hockey World Cup. (PTI Photo) 

Agustin Mazzilli and Gonzalo Peillat scored a brace each to help Olympic champions Argentina eke out a 4-3 win over Spain, while New Zealand scrapped past France 2-1 in their opening matches of hockey World Cup here Thursday. Six places may separate the two teams in the FIH rankings but world number eight Spain gave Argentina, ranked second, a run for their money in the high-scoring Pool A match that produced end-to-end hockey.

The Los Leones had to dish out every trick from their arsenal to get the better of a fighting Spanish side, which matched their rivals in every department throughout. Mazzilli (4th, 15th minutes) and Peillat (15th, 49th) were the goal scorers for Argentina, while Spain’s goals came from the sticks of Enrique Gonzalez (3rd), Josep Romeu (14th) and Vicenc Ruiz (35th).

In the day’s second Pool A match, New Zealand scored two field goals through Kane Russell (16th) and Stephen Jenness (56th) to get the better of France. France’s lone goal came a minute away from the final hooter through a penalty corner conversion by Victor Charlet (59th).

In the first game, Spain stunned the Argentines as early as in the third minute through young Gonzalez’s fine field strike past Argetina goalkeeper Juan Vivaldi from a move which he only started. But a minute later Mazzilli drew level for Argentina, deflecting in a cross from the right wing past Spain’s goalkeeper Quico Cortes.

Spain restored their lead in the 14th minute through a penalty corner conversion by Romeu. It was an end-to-end battle as Mazzilli (15th minute) again came to Argentina’s rescue, equalising 45 seconds from the first quarter after receiving a pass from Lucas Villa on the left side.

Just seconds away from the first break of the match, Argentina scored again when dragflick specialist Peillat (15t) converted a penalty corner with precision to hand his side the lead for the first time. Both the teams played with same intensity and pace in the second quarter but failed to find the net.

Five minutes after the change of ends, Spain equalised through Ruiz’s (35th) field strike. The match went on similar lines in the fourth and final quarter with both Argentina and Spain pressing hard for more goals to secure three points. But it were the Argentines who succeeded in their effort when Peillat was again bang on target from another penalty corner in the 49th minute.

Thereafter, Spain dished out all the tricks, including withdrawing their goalkeeper for an extra player four minutes from the final hooter, but failed to breach the Argentina defence.

Argentina will play New Zealand in their next pool match on December 3, while Spain will be up against France.

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