Great Britain Qualify for Beijing Olympic Games
As widely expected, the Olympic qualification came down to a final showdown between Great Britain and India, the two highest ranked teams in the competition. The result of the pool game (narrow win 3-2 for Great Britain) didn’t mean anything any more, only the 70 minutes of the Final in the scorching heat of the Chilean summer.
Great Britain started the game with more purpose in their play, immediately pushing India on their heels. In the 4th minute, Barry Middleton received a great pass from Ashley Jackson and didn’t miss the opportunity to open the scoring. India seemed to have trouble reacting and did not threaten the British defense for a while. On a penalty-corner earned after a decisive run by James Tindall, Richard Mantell increased the scoring with a direct flick.
Great Britain was controlling the midfield, forcing the Indians to start their run from far away or to rely on deep balls easily intercepted by the British defense. Momentum started to shift halfway through the period and the British goalkeeper was called into action. Great Britain were stretched at time but held their defensive structure well, efficiently thwarting all the Indian attempts to get close enough for a shot at goal.
Tension was high in second half, maintained by the Indian drums in the stands. Great Britain had a superb chance to make the break in the early stages of the period with a 3 on 2 situation, but Jonty Clarke could not control the bouncing ball in front of the open goal. Later in the half, Great Britain created another golden opportunity but Jonty Clarke was again unlucky to see his shot hitting the post after cleanly beating the Indian goal-keeper.
With the clock ticking down, Great Britain were playing cautiously to avoid exposing themselves to the Indian runs. Meanwhile, there was more urgency in the Indian ranks, their nervousness showing on a series of penalty-corners which they badly spoiled.
In the last minutes of the game, the Indian attempts became more disorganized, as if they had already accepted that they would not break through the British defense, the drums in the stands became silent in mourning of the first non-qualification of an Indian team for the Olympic games and the British could cruise to a deserved victory that earns them a berth in the Beijing Olympic Games.
Great Britain is the eleventh men’s team qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics after China, Korea, Pakistan, South Africa, Canada, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Australia already booked their ticket last year. New Zealand won the first Olympic Qualifier in Auckland and the last vacancy will be allocated at WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier in Japan (5-13 April 2008).