Dario Lopez-Mills
August 12, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) The night was going to end in guaranteed disappointment for one former Olympic field hockey champion.

Britain and New Zealand, who share three Olympic gold medals, were in action on Friday under the lights.

Whichever of them had the better result would advance from the pools to the quarterfinals, and the other would go home.

Britain was up first, against qualified Spain, and equalized in the first quarter between the goalkeeper's legs. Thereafter, Britain laid siege to the Spanish circle, the extent of which Spain had only one more shot on goal over the last 51 minutes.

Britain had 12 cracks, including four penalty corners, but goalie Quico Cortes, the old man of the team, batted balls away like they were balloons. When the match finished still 1-1, Spain celebrated second in Pool A, while over in the main stadium, New Zealand and Belgium were 0-0 coming to the end of their first half.

Not for long. Just 27 seconds into the new half, the Kiwis broke the deadlock with a beauty, setting up a penalty corner shot for Nic Wood, only for him to fake it and curl the ball behind him for Simon Child to smash in cleanly down the left side.

Then, James Coughlan went on a mazy run up the middle to the circle where he fed an unmarked Nick Wilson to blast in. The Belgians were hanging off tackles, even more apparent when they allowed Hugo Inglis a solo run across the goalmouth to flick in a soft goal for 3-0, at which point the New Zealanders knew they'd secured the fourth and last playoff berth in Pool A.

They ultimately won 3-1, eliminated Britain, and ended the unbeaten start of Belgium, which still topped the pool.

''It's one of our best ever performances under that sort of pressure,'' New Zealand coach Colin Batch said.

The Kiwis' prize for reaching the quarters will likely be Germany, going for a third successive gold medal. New Zealand has never beaten Germany in a major event.

The other probable quarterfinals on Sunday will be: Netherlands vs. Australia, Belgium vs. India, and Spain vs. Argentina.

The Germans showed their class when they held off European champion Netherlands 2-1 in their 200th meeting, also the Pool B decider.

Two wonderful touches in front of goal by Florian Fuchs and Mats Grambusch made it 2-0 soon after halftime, but the Dutch halved the deficit through Seve van Ass, and turned the heat on.

Germany barely avoided a draw, but go into the quarterfinals with four straight wins after opening with a draw against Argentina.

Notably, the Germans stymied Netherlands defender Mink van der Weerden, the tournament leading scorer with seven penalty corner goals. He'd scored in 11 straight Olympic matches, dating to London.

The Netherlands go from one old Olympic rivalry to likely another, against top-ranked Australia, and leading 6-5 overall. The Aussies got ready by dispatching Brazil 9-0 to complete the men's pool stage. Brazil allowed 46 goals, and scored one, but enjoyed rousing home support.

Argentina defeated Ireland 3-2 in a crowd-pleasing tit-for-tat affair to place third in Pool B, jumping above India, which conceded a 2-2 draw with Canada. While India, the fallen giant, gave Canada an Olympic point for the first time, it owns a first Olympic playoff spot since the 1980 Moscow Games.

They were also lasting longer than the British, who were beaten semifinalists at their home Olympics four years ago, and heading for the exit.

''It's the under-performance of a very, very long time for Team GB,'' said Ashley Jackson, the penalty corner specialist who nailed only two of his 14 attempts in the competition. ''We're pretty slack when it comes to the real key areas of goal-scoring and keeping the ball out.''

In the women's field, New Zealand denied the defending champion Netherlands a fourth straight win when it snatched a late 1-1 draw, and China eliminated South Korea from quarterfinal contention thanks to a scoreless draw.

The Dutch remained unbeaten but the Kiwis were right behind them in the standings, ahead of Germany on goal difference. The Netherlands, seeking an unprecedented third straight gold medal, will play Germany on Saturday to potentially decide their pool winner and a supposedly easier route to the semifinals.

New Zealand, which conceded a penalty corner goal to Netherlands captain Maartje Paumen off the post just before halftime, earned payback when captain Kayla Whitelock whacked in a volley with 68 seconds left.

''We need to keep in our head to keep playing hockey and not be chickens,'' Netherlands midfielder Lidewij Welten said.

The women conclude their pool stage on Saturday, with China, Spain, Argentina, India and Japan vying for the last two quarterfinal berths.

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