New Zealand rallied back from two goals down to advance to the knockout stages after holding Spain to a 2-2 draw in their final Pool A match at the Hockey World Cup in Bhuvneshwar on Thursday.
Albert Beltran scored as early as the ninth minute before Alvaro Iglesias doubled the lead in the 27th minute to put Spain 2-0 up at half-time. But New Zealand replied back with two goals in the final 10 minutes and hold the World No.8 to a 2-2 draw.
Hayden Phillips (50th) and Kane Russell (56th) were the goal scorers for the Black Sticks, helping their side share the spoils and secure an entry into the next round.
Olympic champions Argentina lead the group with six points from two games followed by New Zealand on four and Spain, on two points. Argentina plays France in their final Pool A match.
The South American outfits are expected to top the group irrespective of the outcome of their final Pool match, while New Zealand are expected to finish second. Top four teams from each Pool (four) will directly qualify for the quarterfinals, while the second and third place teams will play an elimination match against other teams for the remaining four berths.
New Zealand started well and should have scored in the sixth minute but Hugo Inglis’ shot from close range was brilliantly saved by the Spanish goalkeeper and captain Quico Cortes.
On the other side, it was Spain who scored against the run of play with Beltran scoring from a Pau Quemada through ball. Minutes later, Spain earned their first penalty corner but failed to keep the resulting shot on target.
Two minutes after the mis-hit PC, Spain doubled their lead through Iglesias, who smashed home a Ricardo Santana pass from inside the box.
But with the match swinging away, the Black Sticks found a way back with just 10 minutes remaining for the final hooter. They were relentless in attacks but failed to produce the result in the third quarter.
Then five minutes into the fourth quarter Phillips pulled a goal back for New Zealand setting up for an eventful finish to the exciting encounter. Receiving a pass from Inglis on the left side, Phillips blasted the net with a powerful strike on the roof of the net.
Spurred by the goal, New Zealand went all out for the equaliser and eventually found it when Russell found the net from his side’s only penalty corner in the 56th minute.