Monday, April 15, 2024

Olympics Hockey: Great Britain men rally for Tokyo advance

An hour when the Olympics permutations came alive and reared its head for the first time at Tokyo 2020.

First the news filtered through of South Africa’s stunning 4-3 win over Germany. At this point Great Britain were 2-0 down against Holland.

South Africa playing Canada in their last game and GB facing world champions and table toppers Belgium in their final match? This, bar goal difference, was going to the wire on Friday.

Did Danny Kerry know the result on the adjacent pitch? Or did GB finally turn up?

Well, it took until the final seven minutes for GB to salvage a draw as Sam Ward scored a brilliant five-minute brace to see Kerry’s side through to the quarter-finals on a baking day in Tokyo.

“We rode the pressure first half – the Dutch are a great side and they played some great hockey –  but in the end our fitness shone through,” said Ward.

“It shows that some days you can just grind out the work rate. We’re a bunch of very fit blokes and that’s what shone through.

“Coming back from the loss we had the other night – it was pretty tough to lose 5-1 to the Germans – we managed to put a performance in and do ourselves proud.”

It was a thrilling last 30 minutes. Even Australia were mentioned as the team no one wants to face in the last eight for finishing fourth.

That could still happen if GB lose to the Red Lions. But for now, GB will be buoyed by their comeback at the Oi Stadium.

A Robert Kemperman aerial into tight space in the GB cirle saw Thierry Brinkman turn in after a marvellous interchange.

Thirty seconds into the third quarter Jip Janssen flicked low to Ollie Payne’s left, but Ward was unable to trap as it came off his boot.

There was respite, but it took until the final quarter; Tom Sorsby running into the circle with space, his backhand across goal converted by Ward with a fine deflection.

With six minutes left, a GB corner finished with Phil Roper’s shot canyoning inches wide after deflections off the top runner and Pirmin Blaak.

Still the game flowed end to end. Two minutes later, Ward found a foot for another late chance. A second offering saw Jack Waller inject with pace and this time Ward beat the runners and Pirmin Blaak for his second.

With under 40 seconds left, the Dutch then won four penalty corners in a row as Britain threw everything at blocking the ball.

Netherlands’ usually threatening corner battery, lacking in Tokyo, couldn’t find a way through.

On Friday, Germany play Holland, Canada take on South Africa, while GB face Belgium in the late game (1:15pm UK)

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