Mixed fortunes for Team GB hockey teams as men fight for Rio 2016 survival while women storm ahead

Why is that when a British team face a crucial fixture, Australia always pop up as the opponent? Qualification is in the balance for Team GB’s men’s hockey team, who have to win both their last two group games to have any chance of reaching the semi finals.

That first must-win clash comes against Britain’s fiercest sporting rival this evening.

Bobby Crutchley’s team have struggled so far, with their only win from three games coming against automatic-qualifiers Brazil.

In contrast, Team GB’s women have breathing room at the top of their group, following two wins from two — against India and Australia.

They lie three points ahead of Argentina, who they play at 5.30pm, so could afford to slip up in one of their remaining three matches and still be in with a good chance of reaching the semi finals.

However, the GB squad, which comprises most of England’s European Championship winning team, will want to head to the semis with an unblemished record.

The Argentinians have showed good form so far in the tournament, losing narrowly to the USA and then beating Japan 4-0 with top scorer Maria Barrionuevo scoring two in that match.

England last met with Argentina at the Champions Trophy in June, a match that ended 2-2 with Helen Richardson-Walsh grabbing both English goals.

The teams that face each other today will not be too dissimilar to those in June, so another tight match can be expected.

A victory would all but secure a space in the last four for the GB women, as well as giving them room for error in the match against the USA — the toughest prospect they are yet to face in the group stage.

By contrast, breathing room in their group is something the men’s squad can only dream of — lagging five points behind second-placed Spain with two must-win matches to play.

The tougher of those two contests comes in the early hours of Thursday morning against Australia.

World number one, world cup winners and bronze medallists from the 2012 Olympics — the Kookaburras are an ominous prospect.

Like Great Britain, however, Australia have really struggled to find form in Rio — picking up only one win against New Zealand alongside shock losses to Belgium and Spain.

Their position means the loser of this match stands little or no chance of progressing beyond the group stage.

The rivalry between Britain and Australia is famous, and GB would love to knock their old rivals out of the competition — especially since many of the squad will have painful memories of being denied a bronze in London by Australia.

Given the teams playing, this contest was always set to be an intriguing watch, but with their Olympic campaigns in the balance, and vengeance on the cards, it may well go down as one of the legendary contests between Great Britain and Australia.

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