Britain will play the Netherlands in the semi-finals in Tokyo
Maddie Hinch put her success down to a fearless approach as another Olympic penalty shoot-out masterclass from the keeper earned Great Britain a semi-final shot against their Dutch rivals.
The hero in goal when Britain triumphed over the Netherlands in similar circumstances in Rio five years ago to win a historic gold, Hinch was up to her old tricks again to finally kill off a Spanish side who had twice pegged back their opponents to finish 2-2 in their quarter-final.
The 32-year-old saved all four of the Spanish attempts, including a twice taken effort from Beatriz Perez after a video referral ordered a retake when the keeper was deemed to have made accidental contact. With Hannah Martin and Sarah Jones scoring two of Britain’s three attempts, the final save from Hinch confirmed a 2-0 shootout win.
"As a keeper you shouldn’t fear them, it’s just a chance for you to do your part. I didn’t fear it, I felt ready, I felt I’d done my work," Hinch said.
"Nerves are a good thing, but I don’t feel like I have anything to lose, I’m not trying to prove anything, I’m just trying to do my job. As long as I have no regrets and I’ve given it my all and I believe I can stop every one, then what will be, will be. I don’t feel invincible, I just enjoy them."
Afterwards head coach Mark Hager described Hinch as "one of the best goalkeepers in the world" with team-mate Lily Owsley adding: "She’s a big game keeper. It gives our shoot-out takers so much confidence that she is there in the goal. We know we only need to score one or two, and she takes care of the rest."
With the match a replay of the quarter-final five years ago which the eventual champions won 3-1 – and the first time Britain and Spain, led by Englishman Adrian Lock, had crossed sticks since – both teams took a while to assert their dominance.
Martin made the breakthrough on 17 minutes, using the self-pass rule superbly and driving into the circle before firing through keeper Maria Ruiz Castillo’s legs. But three minutes later Spain were level after a well-worked penalty corner was deflected goalwards by Belen Iglesias.
Hannah Martin scores a penalty against Maria Ruiz Castillo
Britain immediately capitalised on a green card for Clara Ycart early in the third quarter when Grace Balsdon dragged in high from a penalty corner but with nine minutes left, Britain conceded a scrappy second when Berta Bonastre poked home. Martin hit the post at the death for Britain before Hinch’s heroics.
Owsley, one of seven players left in the squad from Rio, believes the team are building crucial momentum after a tournament build up where they were doubted by many, despite their status as defending champions.
"The more people that write us off the better, we’ll show them," she added. "We’ve had a rocky few years, I know everyone has gone through the pandemic and we only got Mark in two years ago so it’s been a real rebuilding process and taken us a bit of time through the Pro League, changing our style but now we’ve got that attacking flair but we’ve also got the British bulldog side back, so it’s really exciting times. This is the best we’ve played in a bloody long time. It all feels like it’s coming together."
As for the Dutch – who are living up to their pre-tournament favourites tag, beating Britain 1-0 in the group stages and knocking out New Zealand 3-0 in their own quarter-final earlier in the day – bring it on, was Owsley’s message about Wednesday’s game.
"I’m glad we’re playing Holland," said the forward. "We’re here to win and you don’t win without beating the best team in the world. Pressure makes diamonds so we’ll give it a good go and hopefully come away with a result."