November 3, 2019 / 3:39 PM / 15 days ago

Hockey - British teams secure Tokyo 2020 spots after playoff wins

(Reuters) - Britain’s women’s and men’s teams booked their spots for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after posting comfortable victories in the qualifying playoffs at Lee Valley in London on Sunday.

Early goals from Tess Howard and Laura Unsworth ensured the defending Olympic champions won 2-1 in the second leg to claim the tie 5-1 on aggregate.

Chile had a goal ruled out in the third quarter before Fernanda Villagran scored late on for the visitors.

After Saturday’s 4-1 comeback win over Malaysia, Britain’s men powered past the visitors 5-2 in the second leg to clinch the tie 9-3 overall.

Scotland forward Alan Forsyth finished with a hat-trick and Sam Ward scored twice in a commanding display, ensuring Britain will now have a chance to improve on their disappointing group stage exit at the Rio Olympics.

Since winning the Olympic title in 2016, Britain’s women’s team have endured a difficult transition period.

Helen Richardson-Walsh, Kate Richardson-Walsh, Sophie Bray and Crista Cullen have retired from the international game, while England and Britain’s most capped female player Alex Danson continues to recover from a long-term head injury.

They finished second bottom in the inaugural FIH Pro League earlier this year, winning only three of their 16 matches in the competition.

On Saturday, however, Mark Hager’s side looked in complete control as they powered past Chile 3-0 in the first leg with goals from Izzy Petter, Hannah Martin and Anna Toman.

Only seven of the Rio gold medallists are part of the current squad, but Hager is confident his players have the quality to return to the podium in Tokyo next year.

“The pressure on the girls (at qualifying) was huge, especially as they are the defending Olympic champions,” said Hager.

“We had to win these two games and I’m really proud of the girls. It’s a fantastic effort. Now we can put our plans in place for what’s to come.

“Our next objective is to make sure we’ve got the process to find that extra 10-20% improvement we need to compete for a medal (in Tokyo).”

Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis and Christian Radnedge

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