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Path to the podium: Men’s Hockey

2 August 2016

Hockey: The Australian men’s hockey team head into the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as one of the competition favourites as they go in search of their second Olympic gold medal.

Having first been played at the 1908 London Games, Australia made their first Olympic appearance at the 1956 Games and have been a part of all but one Olympic Games since (that being the 1980 Moscow Games).

The nation claimed three silver and three bronze medals between 1964 and 2000 before breaking through to win gold at the 2004 Athens Games. They’ve since won bronze at both the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games but have gold on their minds for Rio.

The Rio 2016 draw features two groups of six teams with each side playing the other nations in their group once. The top four teams in each group will progress to the quarter-finals with the top team of each group playing the fourth ranked team in the other group and the second and third ranked teams from each group playing against one another.

Australia has been pooled with New Zealand, Spain, Belgium, Great Britain and host nation Brazil while the likes of Germany and the Netherlands will likely be the toughest teams to beat in the latter stages of the tournament.

Jamie Dwyer is in Rio for his fourth Olympic Games appearance and gives his thoughts on who stands in the Australian sides’ way of winning a second Olympic gold medal.  

 

New Zealand
2016 Champions Trophy result: Did not qualify (DNQ)
Best Olympic Games result: 
London 2012 result: 9th
Recent results vs Australia: New Zealand 0-1 Australia (2016 friendly international),
Dwyer: “We’ve played them a number of times over the past four years and they’re a very good team with some dangerous strikers. Hopefully we should be able to take care of them. It’s a good first test for us.”

 

Spain
2016 Champions Trophy result: Did not qualify (DNQ)
Best Olympic Games result: silver – Moscow 1980,  
London 2012 result: 6th
Recent results vs Australia: Spain 0-3 Australia (2014 World Cup), Spain 2-5 Australia (2013 World League)
Dwyer: “We haven’t played Spain a lot in the past couple of years. They have a unique set of skills that we’re not used to playing against but I believe we should get the job done.”

 

Belgium
2016 Champions Trophy result: fifth
Best Olympic Games result: bronze – Antwerp 1920, Atlanta 1996, Beijing 2008
London 2012 result: 5th
Recent results vs Australia: Belgium 0-2 Australia (2016 Champions Trophy), Belgium 1-2 Australia (2015 World League)
Dwyer: “They’re a realistic gold medal chance. We played them in a few finals recently. They’ve got a great team and play a unique style as well. They’re very zonal while other teams play man to man. That’s going to be a challenge playing Great Britain one day and then Belgium with a different style the next.”

 

Great Britain
2016 Champions Trophy result: fourth
Best Olympic Games result: gold – Antwerp 1920, Seoul 1988 
London 2012 result: 4th
Recent results vs Australia: Great Britain 0-0 Australia (2016 Champions Trophy), Great Britain 1-5 (2016 friendly international)
Dwyer: “We’ve played them about five times last year and four times this year. They’ve got a talented team that have been together for a while now. They’ve got some of the best players in the world. They’re a challenge but we’ve had some good results over them at big tournaments recently.”

 

Brazil
2016 Champions Trophy result: Did not qualify (DNQ)
Best Olympic Games result: Never qualified 
London 2012 result: DNQ
Recent results vs Australia: Never played
Dwyer: “We’ve never played them before but we should get out there and win that game.”

 

Germany
2016 Champions Trophy result: third
Best Olympic Games result: gold – Munich 1972 (as West Germany), Barcelona 1992, Beijing 2008, London 2012
London 2012 result: gold
Recent results vs Australia: Germany 3-4 Australia (2016 Champions Trophy), Germany 1-4 Australia (2015 World League)
Dwyer: “Won the last two Olympic gold medals. They’re very structured, great at the set piece and have a lot self-belief that they can perform really well on the big stage.”

 

Netherlands
2016 Champions Trophy result: Did not qualify (DNQ)
Best Olympic Games result: gold – Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000.
London 2012 result: silver
Recent results vs Australia: Netherlands 3-2 Australia (2015 World League), Netherlands 1-6 Australia (2014 World Cup)
Dwyer: “They’re Germany’s neighbours but play a completely different style. They’re a little looser in defence than Germany but they have some unbelievably skilful players in their midfield that we will have to nullify.”

Matt Bartolo
olympics.com.au

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