reports from Barcelona
Calum Giles, with two penalty corner conversions, enabled Great Britain to sign off with a 2-0 win over Belgium here yesterday to conclude their successful Olympic qualifying campaign and extend their unbeaten run to 17 since November.
The manager, David Whittle, saw Saturday's 3-2 win against Malaysia as effectively the end of the qualifying campaign, and yesterday's game against Belgium as the start of their build-up to the Olympics. Britain achieved their main objective with a storming first-half performance against Malaysia for a 3-1 interval lead, following an opening goal from Rob Thompson after just three minutes.
Britain were forced to take the field against Belgium without their captain, Jason Laslett, who badly bruised an ankle against Malaysia and with Danny Hall and Howard Hoskin operating along the wings. With John Shaw and Kalbir Takher dominating the midfield, Britain created a string of first-half opportunities, all of which were squandered with weak finishing.
It was not until seven minutes into the second half that, following a Hoskin shot, Takher forced Britain's first penalty corner. On came Giles to drag his shot into the roof of the net and relieve the tension. Britain continued to play attractive attacking hockey with the only reward being a second corner in the 57th minute and another strike by Giles.
A satisfied coach, David Whitaker, said after the game: "We created a lot of chances but it was not an easy game. I was pleased with the way we focused but we were not clinical enough with our finishing. We will be working on that before Atlanta."
Malaysia took the last qualifying place yesterday following their goalless draw with India in a game that was most suspicious. With rumours circulating that India would give Malaysia the point they needed, the game became a farce with neither side showing any desire to score.
The Indian coach, Cedric D'Souza, said: "If there is an iota of truth in this, I will resign immediately. My players were disgraceful."
The real blame must surely rest with the International Hockey Federation, for bad programme planning.
GREAT BRITAIN: D Luckes (East Grinstead); J Wyatt (Reading), Soma Singh (Southgate); G Fordham (Hounslow), Kalbir Takher (Cannock), S Hazlitt (Hounslow); D Hall (Guildford), J Shaw (Southgate), R Thompson (Hounslow, capt), N Thompson (Old Loughtonians), H Hoskin (Reading). Substitutes used: C Mayer (Cannock), C Giles (Havant).
BELGIUM: M van Oost (capt); P Vanhemelen; V van Diest, M Coudron, T Renaer; J Beunen, J Willems, P Pille; F Berger, M Beunen, M Kinnen. Substitutes used: B Vuylsteke and G Dewamme.
Umpires: P von Reth (Neth) and R St Rose (Trin).
ATLANTA OLYMPIC GAMES DRAW: Men: Group A: Argentina, Germany, India, Pakistan, Spain, United States. Group B: Australia, Great Britain, Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, South Africa. Women's round robin: Argentina, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Korea, Netherlands, Spain, United States.Reuse content