An ecstatic Maddie Hinch insists belief in their own ability was the key, as Great Britain’s women maintained their perfect start to the Hockey World League Semi Final with a nerve-wracking 2-0 win over Argentina.
Second-half goals from Hannah Macleod and Sophie Bray gave Danny Kerry’s side their first victory over Los Leones in a major competition since 1996, and sent GB to the top of Pool A in the process.
In what is the first opportunity to qualify for next year’s Olympics, Great Britain headed into the tournament knowing a top-three finish in Spain will book their spot on the plane to Rio.
Hinch was called into action several times late on to keep Los Leones at bay, and the 26-year-old admits an entire team performance was required to seal victory.
“We are absolutely delighted as it was a massive, massive team effort from us today,” she said.
“But we’ve been in good form coming into this tournament and we had so much belief that this would be our day to finally beat them.
“They’re a fantastic side, but we had a lot belief throughout the side and even though they had a lot of chances we were able to hold on.
“Their forwards are probably the best in the world, and we knew that was their main threat and that if we could negate that and take our chances at the other end we were going to come out on top.
“At half-time Danny said to us that we needed to show a little bit more belief that this was our time, and we are delighted that we did.
“The goals were a little scrappy but we don’t really care how it goes in as long as it does, and let’s hope we can score plenty more throughout the tournament.”
Nothing could separate the sides at half-time of this thrilling contest, with Alex Danson unlucky to see her penalty stroke cannon back off the post and GB spurning five short corner opportunities.
But after a stern team-talk from Kerry, GB came flying out of the traps in the second-half and were ahead on 37 minutes when Macleod was first to react to the dangerous Susannah Townsend’s shot to fire home the rebound.
With Argentina pressing for an equaliser GB looked dangerous on the counter, and Danson whistled a reverse-stick shot across the face of goal but none of her teammates could make contact.
But with their rivals down to ten players, Bray put the icing on the cake and converted GB’s ninth penalty corner of the afternoon at the second stage to seal the win with two minutes remaining.
Meanwhile, the men’s side got preparations for their own Olympic qualifiers off to the best possible start, with a stunning 3-1 friendly victory over world champions Australia in front of a packed Lee Valley crowd.
Jamie Dwyer fired the Kookaburras level before half-time after Sam Ward had put GB ahead, but second-half goals from Alastair Brogdon and Iain Lewers ensured Ashley Jackson could celebrate his 200th international cap with a famous victory.
Bobby Crutchley’s side now travel to Belgium ahead of their opening World League Semi-Final clash with the hosts next Sunday.
© Sportsbeat 2015