World champions Germany booked their Olympic tickets by beating Egypt in their semi-final of the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers 2024 in Muscat on Saturday.
Joining them in the French capital this July will be the Great Britain men’s side who claimed victory over New Zealand in their semi-final.
The was double joy for the British as the GB women’s team also made sure of their place at the Olympic Games by beating Ireland in the bronze-medal playoff in Valencia.
Already assured of their Olympic places, Spain and Belgium women played out a thrilling final with the Belgians leaving it late, but clinching the title with a 2-1 win.
The women’s tournament in Valencia closed out with all eyes on the third-place playoff where Ireland and Great Britain went head-to-head for the last remaining spot for the Paris Olympics, while Spain and Belgium met in the final with their tickets to Paris already secured.
Great Britain delivered a clinical performance in beating an Irish team that conceded too many turnovers at critical times in the match. Ireland had a nervous start and were it not for the excellent Ayeisha McFerran in goal, and Charlotte Beggs saving one bravely on the line, GB would surely have scored a couple of early goals. Sarah Jones eventually opened the scoring for the British side from a penalty corner rebound early in the second quarter, and Katie Robertson made it 2-0 from a turnover at the beginning of the third. Ireland lifted themselves to chase the game, pulling their keeper off with seven minutes remaining and piling on the pressure. They won three late penalty corners but by the time Hannah Mcloughlin put one away there were just seconds left on the clock. The 2-1 win saw Great Britain finishing third in the tournament and securing their ticket to Paris, while Ireland's Olympic dream is over.
Player of the match Sarah Jones said afterwards: “Emotional is definitely the word. Just absolutely thrilled to qualify for the Olympics. I think we had a fantastic tournament. Today probably wasn’t the best hockey that we’ve played but we’ve played some really good hockey throughout this tournament and I know that’s something we’ll build on leading up to Paris.”
Meanwhile, in the final, two Spaniards celebrated personal milestones with Bélen Iglesias and Lola Riera reaching 100 and 200 caps respectively in their match against Belgium. With both teams having already qualified for Paris, they delivered a free-flowing and enthralling final. Belgium had the upper hand throughout the first half but were repeatedly denied by an electric Clara Perez in the Spanish goal. However, Spain created some opportunities of their own and Sara Barrios put them ahead with a field goal after 29 minutes. The second half continued to be hotly contested and as the clock wound down it seemed that Spain had the result in the bag. However, Belgium showed their class with two late goals, Louise Versavel levelling the scores on 56 minutes before Charlotte Englebert fired in an absolute scorcher for the win less than a minute later.
In the lower playoff matches, Korea came from behind to beat Canada 2-1 for 5th place, and Ukraine claimed 7th spot with their 2-1 win over Malaysia.
Best player: Barbara Nelen (BEL)
Top scorer (9 goals): Ambre Ballenghien (BEL)
Best goalkeeper: Ayeisha McFerran (IRL)
Best junior player: Camille Belis (BEL)
The business end of the Muscat event arrived on Saturday with the winners of both semi-finals guaranteed a place in Paris. World champions Germany came up against Pakistan and Great Britain took on New Zealand.
Germany dominated in their match against Pakistan, holding tremendous amounts of possession and dictating the pace of the match. Tom Grambusch put Germany ahead off a penalty corner in the first quarter, and Niklas Wellen made it 2-0 with a scintillating reverse strike early in the second quarter. Pakistan threatened briefly at the beginning of the third quarter and Jean-Paul Danneberg had to make two brilliant saves to deny them a goal. The Germans responded with two quick goals, Justus Weigand rocketing a reverse stick in from a long pass, and Wellen bagging his second off a penalty corner rebound a minute later to seal the 4-0 victory. Germany advance to the final, so booking their ticket to Paris, while Pakistan have one last shot at an Olympic place in the third-place playoff on Sunday.
Player of the match Niklas Wellen said afterwards: “We are just happy. In this tournament you have to win the semi-final or the bronze-medal match and we are all really, really happy that we won our ticket today… it wasn’t easy for us and I think we showed our quality today.”
In the other semi-final, Great Britain looked slightly better than New Zealand in the opening quarter of a fast and physical encounter. They pressed their advantage home early in the second quarter, Phil Roper opening the scoring with a field goal from a delightful overhead popped to the top of the circle, and Sam Ward adding a penalty corner goal a minute later. New Zealand were rewarded for a strong spell towards the end of the half, Kane Russel scoring a glorious drag flick to make it 2-1. Ward added his second for GB off a penalty corner as the third quarter ended, and New Zealand pulled their keeper off to chase a result with six minutes remaining in the final period. They came close a few times but couldn't beat a determined GB defence. With the 3-1 win, Great Britain claim a spot in the final and will join their women’s side in Paris, while New Zealand must win their third-place playoff against Pakistan on Sunday to keep their Olympic hopes alive.
Player of the match Sam Ward said afterwards: “It was just a fantastic game of GB hockey at the end of the day. Obviously, the girls going and winning earlier was amazing and us doing it now – it’s nice not having to play the third-fourth tomorrow.”
In the playoffs for 5th-8th place, Canada beat China 3-1 and Malaysia romped home 5-0 against Chile.
For more information about the qualifiers and the upcoming Olympic Games Paris 2024, visit Olympics.Hockey.
FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers 2024
Valencia, Spain – 20 January
Result Match 17 (W)
Malaysia 1 – 2 Ukraine
Player of the match: Karyna Leonova (UKR)
Umpires: Jianjun Chen (CHN), Zeke Newman (AUS)
Result Match 18 (W)
Korea 2 – 1 Canada
Player of the match: An Sujin (KOR)
Umpires: Ivona Makar (CRO), Maggie Giddens (USA)
Result Match 19 (W)
Ireland 1 – 2 Great Britain
Player of the match: Sarah Jones (GBR)
Umpires: Kelly Hudson (NZL), Michelle Meister (GER)
Result Match 20 (W)
Spain 1 – 2 Belgium
Player of the match: Stephanie Vanden Borre (BEL)
Umpires: Emi Yamada (JPN), Rachel Williams (ENG)
Muscat, Oman – 20 January
Result Match 13 (M)
China 1 – 3 Canada
Player of the match: Floria van Son (CAN)
Umpires: Hideki Kinoshita (JPN), Sean Edwards (ENG)
Result Match 14 (M)
Chile 0 – 5 Malaysia
Player of the match: Hafizuddin Othman (MAS)
Umpires: Sean Rapaport (RSA), Ahmed Elsayed (EGY)
Result Match 16 (M)
Germany 4 – 0 Pakistan
Player of the match: Niklas Wellen (GER)
Umpires: Gareth Greenfield (NZL), Paul Walker (ENG)
Result Match 15 (M)
Great Britain 3 – 1 New Zealand
Player of the match: Sam Ward (GBR)
Umpires: Steve Rogers (AUS), Tyler Klenk (CAN)