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Great Britain snatch Olympic berth

Last updated on: March 11, 2004 20:20 IST

Great Britain booked a berth in the hockey competition of the Athens Olympics when they beat Belgium 2-1 in a classification match of the qualifying tournament in Madrid on Thursday.

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The 1988 Olympic gold medallists became the fifth team to qualify for the 2004 Games. They will play New Zealand, who beat South Africa 3-2 in another classification match for 5 to 8 positions, to decide the fifth and sixth places on Saturday.

The other teams who have already qualified for the mega event are the semi-finalists of the ongoing qualifier, India, Pakistan, hosts Spain and Holland.

Britain scored two early goals through Barry Middleton (7th minute) and Mark Pearn (8th) and then held off Belgium, who narrowed the leeway with a goal by Marc Coudron in the 33rd minute.

Thereafter, goalkeeper Simon Mason thwarted Belgium with some great saves.

Greg Nicol scored in the sixth and 30th minutes from penalty-corners to enable South Africa take a 2-1 lead at the breather.

But Hayden Shaw, who had pulled a goal back for the Kiwis in the 14th minute, scored again in the 39th minute to keep New Zealand in the match.

Umesh Parag clinched victory for New Zealand in the 41st minute with a field goal.

Both South Africa and Belgium still have a chance to qualify. They play each other in the match to decide the seventh place in the qualifier.

The top seven teams from the Madrid qualifier make it to Athens. However, the seventh qualifier is subject to the ruling of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which is to decide on an appeal by Greece, who have demanded to be included in the hockey competition as hosts of the 2004 Olympics. The ruling is expected next month.

In another match, for 9 to 12 positions, Zbigniew Juszczak scored twice from penalty-corners in the 22nd and 37th minutes to give Poland a 2-1 victory over Canada.

Wayne Fernandes scored for Canada in the 46th minute from a penalty-corner.