Medal a tall order for hopefuls

GB hockey teams look to upset the odds in Beijing

Last Updated: 31/07/08 9:47am

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Great Britain did well to see off India's challenge in the qualifiers but will have it all to do to claim a medal in Beijing

Great Britain did well to see off India's challenge in the qualifiers but will have it all to do to claim a medal in Beijing

Olympic medals are a rarity for Great Britain and so both the men's and women's teams head to Beijing without the overbearing pressure of expectation.

Only three have been forthcoming since 1952 - that memorable gold for the men in Seoul in 1988, having won bronze four years before, and a third-place finish for the women in Barcelona in 1992.

But the baggage of 1988 continues to be dragged around by the national teams, the men especially, and with the sport still only reaching the wider public in Olympic years there is still a perception that GB remain major players.

Unfortunately, aside from the established nations they have been overtaken by a new order which includes Spain, South Korea and Argentina (for the men) and Germany, Japan and Spain (women).

In truth, the men are grateful to be there having come through a nerve-wracking six-nation qualifying tournament in Chile from which only the winner claimed a place in China.

Britain's women have had a more relaxed build-up to the tournament, having booked their place by using home advantage to finish third at the EuroHockey Nations Championships in Manchester last year.

The men will use their experience of the qualifying tournament - where they prevailed at the expense of eight-time gold medallists India - to help them in the toughest of the two pools.

Reigning gold medallists Australia, European champions Holland and Pakistan are expected to fight it out among themselves - South Africa and Canada are the other two nations - for the top two places which take teams into the semi-finals.

Although Great Britain have the potential to cause an upset, they will need to play above themselves if they are to sneak into the last four.

In the other pool, expect to see world champions Germany and European silver medallists Spain to progress against Korea, New Zealand, Belgium and China.

The women have a better chance of making the semi-finals, despite being drawn alongside reigning Olympic and European champions Germany, against whom they will open their campaign.

Argentina, ranked second in the world, present a considerable but not insurmountable hurdle while Japan, New Zealand and the USA are all beatable.

In the other group Holland remain the team to watch despite their disappointing third place at this year's Champions Trophy, with hosts China, Australia and Korea making up a strong quartet with Belgium and South Africa contesting the lower placings.

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