Jacob Draper, Rupert Shipperley and Great Britain held world champions Belgium to a 2-2 draw, ending their Pool B men’s hockey campaign with a statement of intent.
Goals in both halves from Shipperley and Liam Ansell, his fourth of the Olympic tournament, saw Team GB nullify the threat of the gold medal favourites.
Both were cancelled out inside ten minutes but a draw saw the Cwmbran pair’s side leap to third in the pool and India await in Sunday’s quarter-finals.
“We beat them and lost to them in the Euros and then got a draw with them today. It shows we’re putting our game out there, hopefully we can go out against India and put out one hell of a performance.
“Playing in some medal matches would be a dream come true.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in us right now and it’s about building into the big games and not peaking too early.”
There was a dearth of goalmouth action in the first quarter but Britain applied good pressure and defender Brendan Creed’s raking aerial passes proved a useful outlet.
The only shot in the opening period came from Jacob Draper whose slap shot from eight yards caused momentary panic among Belgian defenders but was hacked clear.
Team GB got their noses in front early in the second quarter. Zach Wallace drove the ball into the circle and a sharp exchange with Ansell left Shipperley to tap in the opener.
The Red Lions responded, forcing a pair of penalty corners with Ollie Payne sinking low to his left to deny Loick Luypaert.
Shipperley came close to a second within moments as Britain worked the ball into shooting range and the Welshman let go of a vicious back-hander, parried by Vincent Vanasch.
Danny Kerry’s side knew they’d have to ride out spells of pressure and Payne was alert to put his left hand in front of John-John Dohmen’s well-struck half-volley.
Britain thought they’d doubled the lead when Jack Waller looked to have scrambled the ball in but the goal-line defender Gauthier Boccard was deemed to have intervened in time.
Belgium enjoyed upwards of 60% possession in the first half but Team GB entered their circle more times, a testament to the team effort and the Kerry game plan.
They pierced the opposing backline three minutes into the second half, with Ward flicking narrowly wide of the right-hand post on the angle and a flying Phil Roper unable to connect.
Belgium’s penalty corner threat loomed and they levelled on 37 minutes when Tom Boon’s drag flick deflected viciously off Liam Sanford’s stick and past Payne.
The response was immediate, and emphatic. Creed lifted a 70-yard aerial to Ward, who deftly controlled over his shoulder and played in Ansell to net once again.
Back came the Belgians in an epic slugfest, first Luypaert asking Payne to tip over his high drag flick. From the resulting long corner, Thomas Briels equalised from point blank and 2-2 was how it ended.
On the India challenge, Ward said: “They’ll play a lot of counter-attacking hockey at fast pace.
“It’s one of those, if we can negotiate that type of threat, we can go out there and play our game, our nice pretty hockey and beat them at the counter ourselves.”
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