The GB Women’s and Men’s hockey team secured their places at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games after winning bronze and reaching the final respectively of the FIH Olympic Qualifiers.
WOMEN’S MATCH REPORT:
GB Women secured their Paris 2024 Olympic qualification with a nervy 2-1 win over Ireland in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers Bronze medal match in Valencia on Saturday.
Sarah Jones (18′) and Katie Robertson (46′) scored a goal each for GB, while Hannah Mcloughlin (60′) scored the consolation goal for Ireland.
The first quarter was fought intensely as both teams showcased good attacking and defending skills. GB had a better share of the ball possession and even came close to taking the lead, but the Irish goalkeeper made comfortable saves.
Ireland too made a few circle entries, but the GB defence kept them away from the goal, ending the opening quarter at 0-0.
After a cautious approach in the opening 15 minutes, GB started the second quarter on the front foot. They earned their first penalty corner in the 18th minute and were successful in breaking the deadlock. Jones cleverly chipped the ball into the net after a rebound from the Irish first rusher’s stick.
The majority of the second quarter was played in the Irish half as GB piled pressure on their opponents. However, they couldn’t make much out of it, ending the first half with a slender 1-0 lead.
The start of the third quarter saw GB make relentless runs inside the Irish circle, but couldn’t find a clear-cut opening to double the lead.
Defending deep inside the circle, Ireland kept making timely inroads inside GB’s circle. They earned their first penalty corner of the match in the 42nd minute, but GB’s first rushers made sure their 1-0 lead remained intact at the end of the third quarter.
GB showcased urgency in the final quarter and were rewarded for their efforts as they successfully doubled their lead through Robertson who found the back of the net following a well-orchestrated run from Hannah French in the 46th minute of the match.
With less than seven minutes to go for the final hooter, Ireland removed their goalkeeper to put an extra outfield player. They did manage to earn couple of penalty corners in the following minutes, but GB goalie Sebbie Heesh stood tall to deny Ireland from scoring.
GB showcased resilience in defence as they successfully ran the clock down, not giving Ireland any chance to score goals. However, they did manage to score the goal through Mcloughlin’s slap shot during the penalty corner routine, but that came in at the final hooter following successful referral, making it 1-2 at the end.
On the back of the win, qualification and being awarded player of the match, Jones said: “I think we played really well throughout, and Ireland put up out a really strong performance which we knew they would. But we managed to get the job done which is the most important thing.
“I feel very emotional about qualifying for Paris. I wasn’t part of the qualifiers last time around and to come into a tournament like this and to do is fantastic. This is the most consistent we have played in a while, and I am thrilled we have got it done and it gives us confidence building towards Paris.”
MEN’S MATCH REPORT:
The GB Men’s team made it four wins from four as they booked their place at the Paris 2024 Olympics with a clinical 3-1 win over New Zealand in the Semi-Final of the FIH Olympic Qualifiers 2024 held on Saturday in Muscat, Oman.
Sam Ward (19′, 45′) starred with a brace, while Phil Roper (18′) chipped in with a goal for GB. Kane Russell (26′) scored the lone goal for New Zealand.
Both teams took some time to find their rhythm as they cautiously navigated the early moments of the opening quarter. GB initiated the first real attack as Nick Bandurak unleashed a shot from the top of the striking circle. However, his teammate Shipperly’s deflection attempt sent the ball above the goalpost.
The ball rotated back and forth for the majority of the opening quarter, with both teams relentlessly attempting to take control and break through each other’s defence, yet neither could secure the lead.
GB began the second quarter aggressively, applying intense pressure on the New Zealand defence. Their determination bore fruit when Roper broke the deadlock in the 18th minute of the match. Jacob Draper’s aerial pass was expertly received by Roper at the top of the circle, and he calmly slotted the ball home with a reverse flick, giving his team a 1-0 lead.
In the following minute, GB doubled the lead through Ward’s fiery drag-flick in the penalty corner routine.
The Kiwis gradually settled in and put up an improved performance in the latter phase of the second quarter. They managed to pull a goal back through Kane’s drag-flick on a penalty corner attempt in the 26th minute and came very close to equalizing but missed out on converting their penalty corner in the dying minutes of the first half.
New Zealand had one more chance to equalise but missed out on converting yet another penalty corner in the 36th minute. The third quarter saw a flurry of intense end-to-end action, with both teams pushing each other for a goal.
In the final minute of the third quarter, GB earned a series of penalty corners and successfully capitalised on the opportunity to extend their lead. Ward scored his second goal of the match, resulting in a 3-1 lead for GB at the conclusion of the third quarter.
New Zealand upped their ante in the final quarter in their bid to bring things back on level terms. However, GB, with a two-goal cushion, tried to slow down the proceedings. New Zealand had a penalty corner in the 53rd minute, but GB averted the danger.
The Kiwis gave their all in the final minutes, also having back-to-back penalty corners in the last minute, but GB’s defense unit stood tall to bag a clinical 3-1 win, to not only advance to the final of the tournament, but also secure their spot for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
GB Men will square off against the reigning World Champions Germany in the Final of the FIH Olympic Qualifiers 2024 on January 21, 2024, at 16:30 UK Time, watch live on BBC Sport and red button.
On the back of the performance and a player of the match win, Ward said: “It was a great day for GB Hockey all round. Obviously, the girls going and winning earlier was amazing and to go and secure qualification now and not have the third/fourth play-off.”