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Aussies suffer Spain setback

8 August 2016

HOCKEY: Australia’s men’s hockey team fell to a surprise defeat to Spain in their second Pool A contest in Rio on Sunday evening, going down 1-0 to Alex Casasayas’ sixth-minute opener.

The result leaves the Aussie men third in the six-team pool, chasing a top four finish to ensure progression to the quarter finals.

The world number one side were prepared for 11th-ranked Spain to hold their ground in the encounter but they struggled to break down the Europeans, who defended in numbers.

Captain Mark Knowles and coach Graham Reid both spoke after the game about adapting to compete against such tactics and expressed their confidence in Australia’s ability to find form in the coming games.

“I’m very disappointed. The team is. We’re frustrated,” admitted Knowles.

“The coaches put a lot of effort into preparing for a quick turnaround and we just weren’t good enough.

“They [Spain] were very good, they were aggressive. They played that European style, the soccer stuff, and we just didn’t really adapt.

“We have to, we know that, because more and more teams are going to do that against us.

“It’s not ideal because we want to win every match we play, always.

“It could be a little wake-up call but we don’t need a wake-up call, we’re better than that.

“We’re the world’s best team for a reason and that was below our standards.”

Spain opened the scoring with their first attack of the contest. Andrew Mir found Marc Salles in the right channel and from his chipped cross Casasayas expertly manoeuvred his body to get the faintest of touches to the ball.

It was enough to direct it towards Andrew Charter’s goal, the goalkeeper unable to prevent it bobbling down and over the line. Casasayas had been on the field for just 41 seconds.

Australia’s best chances fell to Glenn Turner, who was twice denied in as many minutes by Francisco Cortes in goal for Spain early in the second quarter. Blake Govers’ lightning penalty corner flew wide shortly before half-time while Chris Ciriello was unable to execute two more corners.

In the third quarter, Turner and Govers combined before the ball hit Govers sliding in on Cortes, while Aran Zalewski blazed a tomahawk over the top.

Australia removed their goalkeeper to play Knowles as a kicking back – an 11th outfield player – for the final four minutes of the match but Spain held on to secure a memorable victory.

“Today we actually made some pretty good opportunities, we just couldn’t put the ball in the net,” said head coach, Graham Reid.

“That’s hockey, I think. [It’s a] disappointing result, obviously, but this is the Olympic Games and teams lift.

“Now it’s our turn to do so and that’s what I’ll be asking the boys to do over the next couple of days.”

Australia’s men face two big encounters in the coming days with Belgium on Tuesday (8:30pm Rio time Tuesday, 9 August, 9:30am AEST Wednesday 10 August) and Great Britain on Wednesday (8:30pm Rio time Tuesday, 10 August, 9:30am AEST Thursday, 11 August) in matches that will go a long way to determining the final positions in Pool A.

Lawrence West


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