Despite creating plenty of opportunities, the New Zealand men’s hockey team could manage only a draw against Japan today.

New Zealand went into the game as clear favourites, carrying a world ranking of 8 to Japan’s 15. After a narrow defeat by India and an equally close win over Spain, New Zealand were looking for a big performance.

And on the run of play, they should have managed a victory.

They had 14 shots at goal compared to Japan’s 6, and they created 6 penalty corner opportunities to Japan’s 1.

Unfortunately New Zealand squandered several chances to take control of the match. The most painful came in the third quarter when Kane Russell’s penalty stroke hit the post and bounced away.

Japan opened the scoring in the third minute with a goal by Kaji Yamasaki and eight minutes later Nick Wilson equalised with a penalty corner goal. The score stayed at 1-1 until an action-packed third quarter, when there were two goals and the missed penalty stroke.

Japan’s goal was scarcely believable. In the 40th Kenta Tanaka took possession in his own circle and jinked and weaved his way downfield, brushing aside some rather uncommitted tackles until he was eventually able to ram home a goal.

To their credit the New Zealanders bounced back a minute later with a Sam Lane goal from a penalty corner.

The New Zealanders made most of the late play but could not find the winner.

“We’re pretty disappointed,” said captain Blair Tarrant. “We had plenty of opportunities but didn’t take them, so were never able to apply any scoreboard pressure.

“We needed to take all three points out of that game. We’re now going to have to refocus and gather ourselves because we play Australia tomorrow and that will be a massive game.”

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