Hockey: Britain qualify for Olympics in top six

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The Independent Online

Great Britain booked their place at the Olympics after a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Belgium ensured a top-six finish here at the men's qualifying tournament.

Great Britain booked their place at the Olympics after a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Belgium ensured a top-six finish here at the men's qualifying tournament.

The win puts Britain into a fifth-place play-off today but it was enough in itself to secure participation in Athens in August as at least the top six are guaranteed a berth. The seventh place is in doubt as Greece have taken their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after being forced to pre-qualify and failing.

Britain began the competition badly but steadily improved. The last time they lost to Belgium was in an Olympic qualifier in Amsterdam 28 years ago.

After a minute's silence in memory of those killed in Madrid yesterday, it was the Belgians who began the brighter. But after seven minutes, Britain took the lead through Barry Middleton's first goal of the tournament, the Cannock forward unleashing a reverse-stick shot from the edge of the circle into the top corner of the net.

Two minutes later, the Reading defender Tom Bertram drilled home Britain's first penalty corner of the game, beating Cedric Degreve inside his left-hand post.

Belgium fought back, however, and two minutes before the interval Marc Coudron deflected in a pass from a short corner.

The Belgians forced the issue after the break, seeing one shot rebound off a post, but Britain held on to maintain their record of not missing an Olympics since Moscow in 1980, when the team boycotted the event as part of a political protest.

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