In the Spotlight is a series that will profile each of the 24 participating teams at the London Olympic Games. It will provide a glimpse of what to expect as each squad begins its London quest. The Great Britain men are the 24th. and final, team to be featured in the series.
The Great Britain team plays and competes 12 months before every Olympics, the rest of the time the players are with England, Wales or Scotland. Of the trio, England is the powerhouse, weighing in at #4 in the FIH World Ranking a precious 12 points ahead of Spain. Great Britain has participated in an impressive 16 Olympics, with five medals to their credit, but most of the medals are from decades ago, with the most recent hardware haul coming in 1988. Since a fifth-place showing in Beijing the team has had success at other events. In 2009, England claimed the European title for the first time ever and a Champions Trophy silver medal followed in 2010 with European bronze capping the recent feats in 2011.
The Road to London:
The Road to London was a mere hop skip and jump for the Brits, they earned the automatic berth as the host nation.
Players to Watch:
Captain Barry Middleton is the heart and soul of the Great Britain team. Not only is he the most-capped player with 257 showings, he is also the man with the scoring touch, ranked third on the team with 75 goals. Ashley Jackson and James Tindall are also part of the 70+ goal club for Great Britain. Goaltender James Fair is among the best in the game when he is on his game. In the luck of the Irish category, is Iain Lewers, who changed his allegiance a few years ago from Irish to English and will be with Team GB at the Games. It was particularly lucky as Ireland missed making the Games in the last 10 seconds of their Qualifier final against Korea.
London will be head coach Jason Lee’s fifth Olympic appearance. He participated as a player in 1992 and 1996 before moving into the coaching ranks where he was the head coach in Athens and Beijing. Under Lee, Great Britain finished in 9th in 2004 before improving to a fifth-place finish in 2008. With Lee’s guidance, the Great Britain squad has steadily improved and had their biggest triumph since the turn of the century when they took the silver at the 2010 Champions Trophy.
Great Britain has impressive veteran talent a lot of depth on its squad. Just how deep is this GB team? Consider that mainstays Richard Alexander and the Mantell brothers were left off the list of 16. The trio has nearly 500 caps between them. Great Britain also has the experience of Lee on the sideline, his vast Olympic experience is sure to have a calming effect on team, which will no doubt be spread thin as the host.
Just which Great Britain team is going to show up? It’s anyone’s guess. Yes, the team took silver at the 2010 Champions Trophy, but just one year later they finished sixth in the eight-team pool. Yes, they took bronze at the latest edition of the European Championship, but it was a pressure-free affair without the Olympic qualification at stake for the Games’ host. Will this GB team be able to step up to the plate when the pressure is on?
Great Britain must have a strong start to the tournament if it wants to be successful. Luckily for the team, they slowly build their way up to their toughest opponents, giving them a chance to build momentum. An early loss against one of the lower-seeded teams could effectively sink the GB ship, but if they play to their potential early on, the semi-finals, and a medal, are well within reach. With strong veteran presence on the team, look for poise to win out, and GB to set sail for a podium finish.
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