A combination of too much reliance on the previously reliable scoring skills of Calum Giles, a defensive outlook and an early goal by Australia here yesterday left Great Britain without a chance of a medal. The best they can achieve now is fifth place.
The controversial skills of Giles, who comes on only at short penalties and had a 35.5 per cent successful strike rate, eventually failed him when he missed two attempts against a quick but beatable Australian side.
Jason Laslett, the team captain, still defended the tactic. "If anything, we didn't give him enough chances to come on today. If you've got a player with his special ability you have to use him. Penalty corners and rolling substitutes are a legitimate part of the game," he said. David Whittle, the manager, also defended the team's tendency to negativity: "We played to our strength, which is defensive - I wish it were different."
So would the British supporters who managed to get tickets for a stadium that was only a quarter full. Absurdly, tickets had to be booked for the whole preliminary competition at any venue, not for any one match.
Another of the reasons why Britain have failed here has been the indifferent form of their greatest hope, Russell Garcia, whose midfield skills have been largely peripheral. He said afterwards that he expected at least five of the present squad to retire after the Games, but he would not be one of them.
Britain had not beaten Australia since the Seoul Olympics of 1988 (10 matches) and never looked like doing so yesterday. As in their earlier games, they constantly lost possession and failed to sustain their attacking. In fact, for most of the first half they struggled to extract themselves from their own half. Conceding a fifth-minute goal to Mark Hagers' powerful shot, they were in psychological as well as tactical trouble.
As Laslett said: "We knew they would come at us fast at first. The one thing we didn't want to do was give them an early goal. When we did, it allowed them to put players up."
One of them was Baeden Choppy, who capitalised on Jon Wyatt's mistimed tackle in the 28th minute, allowing Jay Stacy to shoot in and leaving Britain with a hot and virtually impossible climb in the second half.
n Britain's women were excused training yesterday before tackling Argentina in the three-cornered fight with Germany for the bronze medal play-off spot . "Seven games in 11 days is taking its toll," Jenny Cardwell, the British team manager, said. "The most important thing at this stage is to prepare mentally and build up confidence and self-belief."
GREAT BRITAIN: S Mason (Reading); J Wyatt (Reading), J Halls (Old Loughtonians); P McGuire (Teddington), Kalbir Takher (Cannock), Soma Singh (Southgate); J Shaw (Southgate), R Garcia (Polo Barcelona), J Lee (Old Loughtonians), J Laslett (Teddington, capt), N Thompson (Old Loughtonians). Substitutes used: S Hazlitt (Hounslow), C Mayer (Cannock) C Giles (Havant), D Hall (Guildford).
AUSTRALIA: L Dreher; M York, K Wark; L Elmer, P Gaudoin, D Sproule; S Davies, M Hager, J Stacy, B Choppy, P Lewis. Substitutes used: D Diletti, S Carruthers, G Smith, B Garard, M Smith.
Umpires: R Wolter (Ger), H Ehlers (Den).Reuse content