The Black Sticks are one side that has never been able to realise its potential in the quadrennial showpiece hockey event. The best finish for New Zealand has been seventh place — in 1973, 1975, 1982 and 2014 — and it will like to fare better this time in its 10th appearance at the World Cup.
Head coach Darren Smith, who played in the 2002 edition in Kuala Lumpur and served as assistant coach in 2010 in New Delhi, will have the luxury of having a full strength squad at his disposal. The side, ranked No. 9 in the world, is high on experience, with eight players having more than 100 international caps and three with 90-plus.
The most experienced member of the squad is midfielder Shea McAleese, who has played 272 matches and three World Cups in his 13-year-old international career. The two-time Commonwealth Games medallist will be eager to stand on the podium in his fourth World Cup appearance.
New Zealand will be led by experienced defender Blair Tarrant, who is making a comeback after missing the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games due to injury.
After finishing sixth in the Hockey World League Semifinals in Johannesburg, New Zealand had to wait anxiously before making the cut, thanks to favourable results in the Pan American Cup as both finalists — Argentina and Canada — had qualified through the HWL.
In Bhubaneswar, the biggest challenge for the team will be its date with Olympic champion Argentina.
New Zealand lined up two warm-up games against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, before reaching India. The team starts its campaign against France on November 30. The Black Sticks planned their itinerary to give themselves enough time to acclimatise to the conditions.
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