Hockey: Team GB's women prepare to do battle with Argentina

  • @stevetongue

The last time Great Britain’s women played Argentina, two of Danny Kerry’s leading players ended up injured after a bruising encounter.

That was in an Olympic test event, but tonight the teams return to the Riverbank Arena for the real thing as they battle for a place in the final.

Crista Cullen rolled her ankle in the 2-0 win over Argentina in May while Alex Danson damaged her shoulder.

With so much at stake it would not be a surprise if there were a few more casualties tonight, but Britain’s Helen Richardson is not worried.

The midfielder said: “Hockey can be a rough game. They’ll be putting everything on the line, as we will. There’s no ill feeling towards the Argentinians. It will be brilliant. What a stage to go out there and play Argentina in front of 16,000 home fans.”

Of more concern to Richardson is the tactical threat posed by Luciana Aymar, the seven-time world player of the year. The Argentina captain guided her side to a 1-0 victory over Great Britain in Rosario in the final of the Champions Trophy in February. 

“She’s incredibly important to Argentina,” said Richardson. “If she’s playing well they tend to play well. We’ll have a big role to play on her. If we do stop her then it does make our life a little bit easier. However, they’re not just a one man team, they’ve got talent throughout the ranks. We’ll have to play very well to beat them; it’s the semi-final of the Olympic Games.”

Britain have never reached an Olympic final and have been told they must raise their game by coach Kerry after losing their last two group matches to China and Holland and only qualifying because China lost to Japan.

Kenny said: “Being passive in the ­second half [against Holland] was unacceptable. If we’re going to do well in the semis, people have to hear it straight. You can’t butter it up, you can’t hide it. I’ve said it in a constructive way, I’m sure they probably didn’t enjoy it, but if we’re passive in the semi-final it will be no good. I was very measured; it wasn’t a rant.”

There was, however, some ranting after last night’s crunch match between Britain and Spain in the men’s tournament, with the visitors demanding an inquiry by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) after two crucial decisions went against them in the final minutes.

 Spain had to win to steal a semi-final place from Jason Lee’s team, whose 1-1 draw squeezed them into the last four for the first time in 24 years. Each team scored from a penalty corner, Ashley Jackson’s goal being cancelled out by Pau Quemada’s. but it was the four awarded to the Spanish in a dramatic climax that caused all the controversy.

Britain kept the first two out but to their disbelief were initially penalised twice more. Each time they protested to the umpire, who changed his mind after consulting his fellow official. Spain then used their right to a referral but the video umpire ruled against them.

“How is it possible that he changes his decision twice because of protests?,” said Spain coach Dani Martin. “The players are within their rights to protest but the umpire should not change his decision because of it. If the president of the FIH does not give a public explanation of what has happened there will be very serious consequences. We are in a tournament where there are clear favourites and these countries are being favoured.”