The GB Men's team made it four wins from four as they booked their place at the Paris 2024 Olympics with a clinical 3-1 win over New Zealand in the Semi-Final of the FIH Olympic Qualifiers 2024 held on Saturday in Muscat, Oman.
Sam Ward (19', 45') starred with a brace, while Phil Roper (18') chipped in with a goal for GB. Kane Russell (26') scored the lone goal for New Zealand.
Both teams took some time to find their rhythm as they cautiously navigated the early moments of the opening quarter. GB initiated the first real attack as Nick Bandurak unleashed a shot from the top of the striking circle. However, his teammate Shipperly's deflection attempt sent the ball above the goalpost.
The ball rotated back and forth for the majority of the opening quarter, with both teams relentlessly attempting to take control and break through each other's defence, yet neither could secure the lead.
GB began the second quarter aggressively, applying intense pressure on the New Zealand defence. Their determination bore fruit when Roper broke the deadlock in the 18th minute of the match. Jacob Draper's aerial pass was expertly received by Roper at the top of the circle, and he calmly slotted the ball home with a reverse flick, giving his team a 1-0 lead.
In the following minute, GB doubled the lead through Ward's fiery drag-flick in the penalty corner routine.
The Kiwis gradually settled in and put up an improved performance in the latter phase of the second quarter. They managed to pull a goal back through Kane's drag-flick on a penalty corner attempt in the 26th minute and came very close to equalizing but missed out on converting their penalty corner in the dying minutes of the first half.
New Zealand had one more chance to equalise but missed out on converting yet another penalty corner in the 36th minute. The third quarter saw a flurry of intense end-to-end action, with both teams pushing each other for a goal.
In the final minute of the third quarter, GB earned a series of penalty corners and successfully capitalised on the opportunity to extend their lead. Ward scored his second goal of the match, resulting in a 3-1 lead for GB at the conclusion of the third quarter.
New Zealand upped their ante in the final quarter in their bid to bring things back on level terms. However, GB, with a two-goal cushion, tried to slow down the proceedings. New Zealand had a penalty corner in the 53rd minute, but GB averted the danger.
The Kiwis gave their all in the final minutes, also having back-to-back penalty corners in the last minute, but GB's defensive unit stood tall to bag a clinical 3-1 win, to not only advance to the final of the tournament, but also secure their spot for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
GB Men will square off against the reigning World Champions Germany in the Final of the FIH Olympic Qualifiers 2024 on January 21, 2024, at 16:30 UK Time, watch live on BBC Sport and red button.