The Team GB women’s hockey squad progressed into the Olympic semi-final with a 3-1 success over Spain on Monday night.
Spain had showed little in their opening pool games, but won through to the knockout stages with two victories—including a 2-1 win over Germany, a result that suggested the Spaniards would provide a decent test for the unbeaten British squad.
By half-time though, we were three goals to the good having produced an outstanding thirty minutes of hockey. The scorers were Georgie Twigg, Helen Richardson-Walsh and Lily Owsley, but it was the performance of Sophie Bray that really stood out. She didn’t get her name on the scoresheet, but as part of an attacking unit that is full of incredibly talented athletes, Sophie totally dominated the Spanish defence in those opening two quarters.
In a half where Team GB had made so few errors, it was noticeable that most of the mistakes came from the commentary box, as on at least five occasions, British players were incorrectly identified. I know it’s not the end of the world, but player recognition is pretty essential when you’re commentating and at the end of a long day, it just niggled me….
To their credit, Spain responded really well in the third period. They had plenty of possession, and the goal their efforts certainly deserved came from Georgina Oliva in the final quarter… and an excellent individual goal it was too.
All of a sudden, I felt just a little bit anxious. Team GB had looked so assured, but having watched the German men claim the most unlikely and dramatic victory over New Zealand, with two goals in the final 47 seconds, these Games had shown that almost anything was possible.
In truth the players were probably far more comfortable and confident than this nervy supporter; Spain did threaten, but we did well not only in defence (and I thought Sam Quek in particular had a fantastic game), but also to use those stick skills to hold onto the ball in our attacking half and run down the clock.
Six wins from six games… up next a semi-final against New Zealand, who Team GB defeated in the bronze medal match back in London 2012—what a memorable day that was!
Kate Richardson-Walsh’s side lacks nothing in belief (as well as ability), but they are also a well-grounded, professional group of athletes and will obviously take nothing for granted. That said the girls have done absolutely everything asked of them so far and now stand just one hour away from a chance of playing for a gold medal.
The British men did it in Seoul… I watched every minute of every game back in 1988 and I intend on doing the same in 2016 in the hope that our women can repeat the feat.
It’s been a brilliant Olympics for Team GB so far, but whatever has happened or may yet happen elsewhere in Rio, a medal for this inspirational squad would be extra special.
Keep it going girls… and good luck!
Player of the match… Sophie Bray
Richard... Jack of some trades... you can guess the rest