Team GB’s women’s hockey squad will take momentum into the knockout stages of their Olympic title defence after ending the group stage with a hard-fought victory over Ireland.
With a quarter-final spot already secure before a ball was struck at Oi Hockey Stadium in Tokyo, goals from Susannah Townsend and Hannah Martin helped Team GB – who included Welsh duo Sarah Jones and Leah Wilkinson – finish their pool games on a high with a 2-0 triumph.
The victory wrapped up third spot in Pool A and Spain now await in the last eight on Monday, with the prime target of avoiding a clash against heavy gold medal favourites Australia, who topped Pool B, achieved.
And while captain Hollie Pearne-Webb knows the stakes are raised from hereon, with no margin for error in pursuit of a repeat of that memorable Rio 2016 gold, she insists the approach won’t change.
“We’ve been taking it one game at a time and that’s how we’re focusing on it heading into the quarter-finals” said Pearne-Webb after a contest broadcast live on Eurosport and Discovery+.
“Obviously now, every game is a must-win but we always want to go into every game to win, so we’re not thinking any further ahead than the game against Spain.
“It’s exactly the same processes we’ve been doing throughout the tournament.
“The whole tournament, or the vast majority of it, we’ve played really, really well. As I’ve mentioned before, just the final balls and turning them into goals is what we’re trying to do.
“We were maybe just a little bit off it in terms of our basics but we knew Ireland would have to come out as they needed a win to reach the quarter-finals.
“Ireland v GB battles are quite close anyway, so we knew it would be a scrap and that they would turn up. I’m really pleased with the girls, how we ground it out, got the win tonight and kept a clean sheet.”
After a frustrating first quarter, during which a trio of penalty corner opportunities were spurned, Townsend broke the deadlock early in the second quarter when she flicked in from close range after Leah Wilkinson’s shot had been parried.
And the victory was wrapped up just after half-time, when Ellie Rayer’s powerful reverse cross fizzed across the D and Martin steered it into the net.
At the start of the day, Team GB’s final position in Pool A, and thus their quarter-final opponents, had not yet been decided but Pearne-Webb says the team weren’t interested in anything other than their own performance.
“We didn’t focus on any of the other games today,” she added. “We knew if we performed well, we’d be absolutely fine. We didn’t look at anything else or what others needed to do.
“We knew if we played well, won and got a result we would get a nice quarter-final spot, so that’s all we focused on.”
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