Great Britain’s men produced an impressive performance in their final Pool B match as they took a 2-2 draw against Belgium.
Rupert Shipperley’s first Olympic goal had given GB a first-half lead, but three goals in six third quarter minutes changed the complexity of the game.
Tom Boon had levelled for Belgium via a deflected drag flick, before Liam Ansell’s exquisite finish restored GB’s lead a minute later. Thomas Briels’ strike shortly after would prove to be decisive as neither side could go on to find a winner.
The result means that Great Britain will face India in the quarter-finals on Sunday 1 August at 13:00 BST.
Belgium 2 (0)
Boon (37’, PC), Briels (43’, FG)
Great Britain 2 (1)
Shipperley (17’, FG), Ansell (38’, FG)
Great Britain took the early impetus and were first to record a shot on goal as Jacob Draper’s effort forced a save out of Vincent Vanasch after less than five minutes of play.
Though both sides were showing plenty of energy despite the high humidity, chances were few and far between in an evenly contested opening quarter.
GB did make the breakthrough immediately after the restart. A quick one-two between Zach Wallace and Liam Ansell worked the ball into the path of Rupert Shipperley who calmly slotted the ball into the net with a composed finish.
Belgium came close to an immediate response with two quick-fire penalty corners. The first effort being well saved by Ollie Payne, though the rebound hit the leg of Tom Sorbsy, before the second attempt was dragged wide of the goal.
In what had been a frantic five-minute spell, Shipperley almost had another, his fierce shot on the reverse forcing a sublime save out of Vanasch.
GB were cruelly denied a goal shortly after. A brilliant run along the base-line and cut back into the circle from Phil Roper saw a goal-mouth scramble ensue. The ball crept towards the goal but was adjudged by the umpire to have stopped short of the line, GB without a referral to appeal the decision – though later replays went on to show the ball had crossed the line.
The attacking intent continued after the half-time break. Sam Ward’s shot was drifting narrowly wide of the goal and the onrushing James Gall came within inches of tapping the ball in at the back post.
In a gripping third quarter, three goals in six minutes would determine the outcome of the match. It was a slice of misfortune that saw GB concede an equaliser. Tom Boon’s drag flick taking a wicked deflection off the shin pad of the charging Ansell to take the ball away from Payne and into the roof of the net.
The teams weren’t level for long as Brendan Creed launched an aerial from deep inside his own half perfectly into the path of Ward. Having expertly brought the ball down, Ward found Ansell in space to sweep the ball into the top corner of the goal with a delightful finish and make it 2-1.
It wouldn’t be the end of the scoring during this frantic spell. Thomas Briels getting ahead of Jack Waller to tuck the ball in at the back post and restore parity.
Chances were few and far between in the closing stages of the match as the teams settled for a point in their final Pool B match. The result means that Great Britain’s men finish third in Pool B and will face India in the quarter-finals on Sunday 1 August at 13:00 BST.
After the match, Head Coach Danny Kerry commented: “The lads prepared well for today and that was reflected in the quick start we made to the game. Four matches in five days is punishing, but we’ve navigated a very difficult group well and I’m proud of the team for what they’ve achieved so far.”
Ollie Payne also commented: “Getting a point against the world champions, we’ll take that. It was a bit of a weird ending to the game. With tournament hockey you kind of know where you stand which is nature of the beast really.
“I think with it being such a long tournament you want to work yourself into it, which is something we definitely feel like we’ve been doing. To be honest, you could have said we’d be playing anyone next and we would have fancied it, that’s just where we are as a group. We’re playing India in the quarter-finals where we’ll fancy our chances but also respect what they bring.
“We’ll have a bit of a chill out tonight before getting on the recovery tomorrow and start preparing for the game.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute so far, which is what I wanted to say when I come home. Results can go either way and to say that the tournament rides on how results go as to whether or not I enjoy it is not how I want it to be. You watch the Olympics and it’s the pinnacle of sport, especially hockey, so this has been an unbelievable experience. I probably am the most inexperienced in the squad but credit to the lads because I don’t feel it!”
Starting XI: Ames, Draper, Ward, Roper, Dixon (C), Payne (GK), Ansell, Waller, Gall, Sanford, Wallace
Subs: Shipperley, Griffiths, Sloan, Creed, Sorsby