ANTWERP: Great Britain men celebrated joining the women’s side at the Rio Olympics next year by defeating Pakistan 2-1 in the quarter finals of the World League semi-final here in the Antwerp suburbs.
Britain did not just have to overcome their once great opponents but temperatures to which Pakistan were much more accustomed. It was 38 degrees at the start of the game and rising.
Though only the top three are guaranteed a place at Rio at this tournament, the four semi-finalists can all be sure of their places.
Britain really beat Pakistan in the first nine minutes. They were ahead within four as Chris Griffiths, just on the field as Britain’s first substitute, seized a half chance to rifle the ball into the top far corner of the Pakistan goal. Griffith, one of the team’s newcomers, had pulled down an astute overhead pass from star defender Iain Lewers.
Five minutes later Lewers had a hand in Britain’s second goal. His pass gave Ashley Jackson the chance to shoot and Alastair Brogdon, with his fourth of the tournament, was on hand to deflect the ball into goal.
Britain remained very much in control but it became more and more evident that the heat was taking its toll. The freedom of movement and inter-change diminished. Options to the player with the ball became fewer.
The Pakistan defence played very well but their unimaginative attack posed few problems until the last quarter when they were lifted by a goal 12 minutes from time.
GB’s defence was for once stretched and allowed Umar Bhutta a free shot which goalkeeper George Pinner could only parry and Bhutta popped in the rebound.
Pakistan did have a further chance which Pinner saved, while at the other end GB went close with David Condon nearly setting up Sam Ward.