Hockey: Alastair Wilson says Britain can achieve London 2012 medal success

 

Great Britain are catching up with the other leading nations of hockey and can win an Olympic medal at London 2012 if their 4-1 victory over Argentina is anything to go by, according to Alastair Wilson.

The world’s fourth-ranked team overcame a physical approach from the Latin Americans, who are ranked five places below the hosts, in a tight opening half to run out authoritative winners before a raucous 16,000 capacity crowd at the Riverbank Arena.

Australia remain hot favourites for gold after thrashing South Africa, Great Britain’s next opponents, 6-0 in their opening match yesterday morning with fancied sides Germany and the Netherlands also making winning starts.

Although GB were expected to see off Argentina, Wilson insists such an encouraging start to their Olympic campaign suggests the team are peaking at the right time, having been ranked 11th when London was awarded the Games in 2005 and steadily climbed to their present fourth spot.

“It has been a long road over the last seven years,” said the 28-year-old, who plays his club hockey for Beeston. “There’s been a lot of training between then and now.

“After Athens [when Great Britain finished ninth], quite a lot of new guys came in — myself included — and we’ve all pretty well stayed together since then. There have been a few new guys come in more recently.

“But, generally, everyone’s been together, we steadily worked our way up, building up experience, building up tactical nous, building up physical ability and all that sort of stuff.

“We feel like it’s all coming to something now, where we now have the possibility of doing something really good in a home Games.

“In the past, we’ve been a bit off the leading sides and we would need a good bit of luck to get any sort of result against them.

“But we feel like we’ve played ourselves up the rankings and into the bigger games in tournaments now.

“So, when we play against them, if we play our real best game, then we can compete with those teams now.”

Captain Barry Middleton opened the scoring after 21 minutes, converting after the ball ricocheted to him following a penalty corner.

Great Britain’s Matt Daly received a yellow card — which brings with it a suspension for a minimum of five minutes — for hitting the ball away and Argentina’s Agustin Mazzilli was handed the same punishment for a bad sliding tackle in a robustly contested match.

But Great Britain pulled clear with a field goal from Middleton before Dan Fox scored his first international goal in his 43rd outing after a breakaway move and Richard Smith added a fourth.

Pedro Ibarra registered a consolation but it did little to dampen the spirits of an enthralled crowd who revelled in home success capped with a lap of honour after the final whistle.

“We like to show our appreciation because we know they help us,” said Middleton. “It makes such a difference to us. We are not used to this in the usual hockey we play throughout the year. To have a crowd like this making so much noise for us just gives us so much of a lift.

“The hard thing at times is to try to control that energy and not get too carried away. I think we got a perfect balance — we used the energy of the crowd but without going gung-ho and crazy.

“We’ll do a bit of recovery stuff now, have a couple of meetings to focus on our next game now. We have been through it so many times so we know what we have got to do. Now we will move straight onto the next game and everything is focused on that game.”

Great Britain face South Africa on Wednesday for the first time since a three-match tour in February in which they won, drew and lost.

“We’ve played them quite a few times,” said Wilson. “They’re a team that were kind of at a low ebb a few years ago.

“But they’ve come back really strong now. They’ve got a good, young team. They didn’t do so well yesterday but they were up against tough opposition. We played them earlier in the year and had tough games against them. So, it’ll be another tough match.”

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