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GB women reach first Olympic hockey final

Great Britain hockey

Alex Danson (left) has now scored 47 goals for Great Britain

Great Britain are guaranteed another Olympic medal after the women’s hockey team reached their first final with a superb 3-0 win over New Zealand.

Alex Danson’s double and Helen Richardson-Walsh’s penalty stroke mean GB will win at least silver, improving on their bronze at London 2012.

They next face the Netherlands, who are aiming for a third straight Olympic gold, in Friday’s final at 21:00 BST.

Team GB have won 50 medals – more than at any other overseas Olympics.

Despite winning bronze in London, it was difficult to predict how the team would fare in Rio after mixed results over the previous 12 months.

Danny Kerry’s side headed into the Games having slipped to seventh in the world rankings following a disappointing Champions Trophy in June, but they have recovered impressively to reach the final.

Britain were the only team to progress from the group stage with a 100% record, having beaten both Argentina and Australia – ranked second and third in the world – on their way to the quarter-finals.

After seeing off Spain in the last eight, Britain faced the world’s fourth-ranked team.

The Kiwis had the better opportunities in a goalless opening quarter, catching GB on the break at pace but unable to convert their chances.

Leading scorer Danson prodded in the opener from close range, reacting quickest in a goalmouth scramble as the Black Sticks failed to clear a penalty corner, and Britain protected that lead through to half-time in the face of significant pressure.

Scoring chances were rare in a tight third quarter until New Zealand, still pushing Britain back, created two decent opportunities – Olivia Merry lashing wide before Susannah Townsley cleared off her own line.

Failure to take those chances proved crucial as Britain sealed victory with two penalty strokes in the final quarter.

Richardson-Walsh was taken out by New Zealand’s Kayla Whitelock, picking herself up to convert by flicking in to the keeper’s right.

Then Danson also converted from the spot after Lily Owsley was flattened by Liz Thompson.

Earlier, the Netherlands guaranteed themselves a medal as they knocked out Germany on penalties to reach the final.

The Dutch, ranked the world’s best team, are aiming to become the first women’s team to win three successive Olympic titles.

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Netherlands beat Germany on penalties to reach hockey final

‘Seven out of seven is not too shabby!’

Great Britain goalscorer Helen Richardson-Walsh: “We didn’t feel nervous, we were confident.

“They got chances but were never scoring and we were thinking that it was going to be our night.”

Great Britain head coach Danny Kerry: “What can I say? Seven games out of seven, not too shabby. The girls executed the game plan superbly. I am very, very proud of them all.”

Analysis

BBC Sport’s Luke Reddy in Rio:

“From missing the opening ceremony for fear of standing up too long to imposing their own social media ban for the Games, this Great Britain side are focused to the core.

“That was evident as they soaked up pressure and took their chances expertly against a side higher in the global rankings.

“If rigid focus isn’t enough to win gold, consider momentum. Along with a 100% record on the field, off the field Team GB’s army of friends and family get louder and louder. You get the sense something special is happening.

“Team GB were flawless against New Zealand, but the Netherlands are the side everyone feared. Hitting an even higher level will be a necessity.”

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