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The Olympic-ender Semi-finals

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W8  D2  L2

GF: 32    GA: 15


Rio 2016 – Semi-finals

You could tell from the devastated look on their faces and the panting, sweated brows that they had given it all, but all was not enough.  As the camera flipped between the sides it cast a shuddering divide between jubilant victors and vanquished foes.  But it was the Blacksticks of New Zealand who were vanquished – and truly so – by a still undefeated GB side who showed intent, passion and left bloodied (Cullen), bruised (Twigg) and bowed (H Richardson-Walsh) to put themselves into a place they have never been before:  The Olympic Final.

HRW 2The game was pacy.  Fierce, at times. But the ladies were resolute in their defence, and showed an increased level of dynamism in attack.  This was partly fuelled by the high press employed by both sides which prevented the slow, deliberate build that they have previously employed.  As a spectator it made for a more active game.  You dare not look away for fear of missing a pass interception that could have led to a goal at either end.  And so it began with chances for both sides, although the Blacksticks’ radar was off centre a number of times and we may never know if things might have turned out differently had the post been moved a couple of inches either way.  But the GB defending was resolute and this together with a good PC save from NZ saw scores level at the end of the first period.

The second quarter continued in a similar vein, but with more GB pressure on goal.  The Kiwi defence was finally broken on 21 minutes when Cullen forced a save from a penalty corner that was only parried by the goalkeeper towards the P-spot.  Alex Danson was the quickest to react and lifted the loose ball over the prone keeper, in spite of an almost successful attempt to clear it off the line.  NZ rallied immediately and almost scored but, again, for their broken radar.

After half time the Blacksticks had two penalty corners but were unable to beat the defence of first Kate Richardson-Walsh then Crista Cullen.  Then Cullen was steam-rollered on her own base-line, giving plenty blood to the cause from a head wound.  Two minutes later a ball was lifted at pace into Georgie Twigg’s jaw and she, too, had to be taken from the field for attention.  Both, thankfully, soon returned having been patched up.  Following this were two clearances – the first from NZ who prevented a Helen Richardson-Walsh deflection from going in, then Hinch blocked a NZ foray before Townsend calmly cleared her lines.

ADTwo minutes into the final quarter, Danson flew down the wing and released Helen Richardson-Walsh into the D only for her to be unceremoniously upended.  HRW duly converted the ensuing penalty stroke, making amends for having missed one against Argentina.  However she immediately hobbled away from the spot having picked up a knock in the process.  Four minutes later Danson, on the left this time, fed Owsley who was tripped as she rounded the last defender and was about to shoot and GB were awarded another penalty stroke.  Danson stepped up for this one and slotted home her fifth goal of the tournament to make it 3-0.  GB held out to the end to see their way clearly into the final.

There was something of a hesitancy to their celebrations as the realisation dawned that not only had they made history in being the first GB ladies side to make it to the Finals of an Olympic hockey tournament but they also still had a game to play.  And it was the biggest game yet.  “One more” came the shrill unison from the corralled team-mates.  There is one more.  For captain, Kate Richardson-Walsh it is all the more poignant as it is her last international game.  It will be the best ever.  It is going to be big.  You couldn’t have missed this semi-final.  Now you wouldn’t dare miss the next one.


In the other semi-final, Holland and Germany couldn’t be separated as it remained 1-1 at full time and so it went to shuttles.  Both sides missed three of their first five shuttles then each scored their sixth, but the Dutch made it to the final by netting their seventh after Germany missed theirs.

So we will see a rematch of the European Final which saw England become European Champions last year (on shuttles, no less).  I predict that it will be a close game.  First goal is hugely important and confidence is everything.

Team of the round?  Well Belgium continued their run of form with a 3-1 win over world no. 2 Holland while Argentina’s 5-2 win over world no. Germany included a hat-trick from a defender, Peillat, so you can take your choice.  What about GB?  Well I’m anticipating they save their ‘team of the round’ performance for the next one..



GB v world rankingsEngland beat the Dutch on home turf in the European final and are playing some of the most cohesive hockey seen by a ladies outfit.  As for rankings -they are old hat.  GB have now beaten world nos. 5, 4, 3 and 2 on the way to this point and don’t look in any mood to lose that momentum.  In fact the record against the top five in the Olympics so far is P4  W4 ; GF10  GA 4.  The Netherlands, whilst unbeaten, don’t have the same perfect record having drawn against NZ, but they can score and have only conceded twice all tournament so there is no doubt this will be the hardest test so far.  That said, GB’s tactics have not let them down yet and they will adjust to their environment as well as having plenty of prior knowledge of their foes.  So, go GB.  All the way.  For Kate.  For the team.  For team GB.  For the country.  For Gold.

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The main thing to note about the red curve is that it is almost an unwavering straight line.  Keep that up – that and Maddie’s GA average – and we’re good to go.

GS sf



No hat-tricks, although with Helen Richardson-Walsh injured at the time she might have given Danson the opportunity, but then she didn’t know Alex was to get another one later on.  But Maddie gets her third clean sheet of the tournament – and against the world’s no. 4, the Blacksticks, too



I was wrong.  And I’m fully prepared to admit it and write a retraction.  Maddie would absolutely not be happy with a 0.8 GA average.  Not, that is, when it could be 0.7.  If it reaches 0.6 she will be in seventh heaven.  With such a solid defensive unit in front of her this has to be the best chance she has of doing it too.

GK sf



Alex Danson is GB’s top striker.  And not for the first time either.  I wouldn’t bet against her improving on this.

Scorers sf


GOLD DUST                    G 19      S 19      B 12

Hockey is now going to be added to the list.  Which list, we will find out on Friday.  All we know is they won’t get the same colour as in 2012.  We also have a sailing gold that has been delayed due to bad wind.  Still, 50 isn’t bad for the time being.  Anyway, I’ve lost track of the other sports – they can wait until the weekend.  For now there is only one sport.  There is only one game.  There is only one Gold.  Go get it, GB.


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