Preview: Great Britain vs China

Townsend breaks forwards with the ball


After yesterday’s defeat in the opening game to Argentina, Great Britain don’t have to wait long to get the chance to put right the wrongs of their first match, as they take on China in match two later on tonight.

Head Coach Danny Kerry was unhappy with the way his side performed against Las Leonas, but that is a frustration that probably comes in part from the high standards Kerry and his side have set for themselves. Unbeaten as Great Britain in the World League Semi-Finals and then unbeaten in the summer as the majority of the squad turned out for England’s European Championship winning side it is fair to say defeat is not something this side takes lying down. Similarly, the team will not be panicking either, knowing it is a long tournament and that fortunes can be changed very quickly by a couple of good performances.

There were bright spots in the defeat to Argentina, not least the form of Susannah Townsend whose pace, power and skill as well as her willingness to carry the ball into dangerous areas looked threatening every time she was in possession.

Great Britain’s opponents tonight are China, themselves aiming to bounce back from disappointment in their opening game after they went down to a narrow defeat to Australia.

China have been in something of a transitional phase in recent years, but the current group is really starting to make some serious headway in their bid to restore the team to the performance levels achieved in 2008, when they claimed the silver medal at the Beijing Olympic Games. There is a clear focus on youth these days, with the vast majority of players that have featured in recent squads being aged 23 or under. 28-year-olds Xu Xiaoxu and Ma Wei were the oldest members of the squad that took part in the Valencia Hockey World League Semi-Final in June.
The relative youth of the team did not stop them from making big waves in Valencia, recording some excellent victories on their way to a hugely impressive second place finish behind Great Britain. Their best performance came in the competition semi-final meeting with Argentina, with penalty corner expert Wang Mengyu scoring twice to give China a 2-1 win over Las Leonas. Ace goalkeeper Li Dongxiao and lively attacker De Jiaojiao are also influential players for a China team that is growing in confidence with every tournament that they enter.

Recent meetings between the two sides have gone the way of Great Britain with Danny Kerry’s team winning three out of the last four clashes, including beating China twice at the World League Semi-Final in Valencia, once in the group stage and once in the final, both 2-0. Undoubtedly the threat posed by Wang Mengyu from penalty corners will be on Great Britain’s minds but similarly they will remember the matches in Valencia where the pace, power and attacking threat of Danny Kerry’s team meant China had no answer. The match also marks a very special occasion for Great Britain captain Kate Richardson-Walsh who earns her 350th international cap if she appears for the team. The captain is also currently on 49 international goals and would surely love to mark the occasion with goal number 50. That said we’re sure as long as the job gets done and Richardson-Walsh is on the winning side, she won’t mind who scores the goals.

The match is live on BT Sport from 21:45 UK time so make sure you tune in and support the Great Britain women as they take another step on their Road to Rio.

GB vs China