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Aussies suffer second straight loss

10 August 2016

HOCKEY: Australia’s men’s hockey team suffered a rare second consecutive defeat on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST), this time 1-0 at the hands of Belgium as Tanguy Cosyn’s close range finish in the 16th minute proved the difference.

The Australian men again failed to find the target with four unconverted penalty corners proving critical.

After the match, captain Mark Knowles admitted that his side is “skating on thin ice” and acknowledged that without the new quarter-final format Australia’s men would be close to a tournament exit.

But, he insisted, the world champions have what it takes to turn their fortunes around.

“We know we’re skating on thin ice at the moment,” said Knowles.

“We need to get better. We know we can. The good thing is that’s 10 years, or four years, of training in the bank and we know it’s there. We just have to do it on the day.

“We’re very, very comfortable with where we know we can get to, but we’re in the Olympics; you’ve got to do it every single day and that’s what I’m disappointed about, the coaches are disappointed about.

“If there were no quarter-finals we’d be on a plane home tonight.

“There are quarter-finals and we have more chances. We know that we can do it. That’s the good thing.”

The Belgians enjoyed the best of the first two quarters, forcing Australian goalkeeper Andrew Charter into two good saves from close range.

Cosyns’ goal immediately after quarter-time was one of the easiest he will ever score as he tapped in unmarked at the back post after being set up by Thomas Briels’ square pass in behind the Aussie defence.

Following the goal, Australia rallied and late in the second quarter they began to threaten.

Jake Whetton’s silky run and through pass almost set up Daniel Beale, but Vincent Vanasch was out smartly to smother it.

The Belgian goalkeeper then denied Chris Ciriello with a comfortable save from a penalty corner.

Charter again saved low down early in the third period before an Australian penalty corner flew illegally high into the net off a direct shot. Glenn Turner then forced Vanasch into another stop.

Still trying to find their range, Blake Govers narrowly sent a penalty corner wide of the left post and Belgium deflected Australia’s fourth set piece to safety.

Despite the defeat – Australia’s first consecutive defeats at an Olympic Games since 1988 – coach Graham Reid insisted that he is content with the opportunities that his side is creating but acknowledged penalty corner conversion has been a problem.

“Our guys are finding it hard to find the net but I’m reasonably happy with the opportunities that we’re creating and we just need to put our penalty corners away,” Reid said.

Jamie Dwyer insisted that there is precedence for a team to begin an Olympic campaign poorly yet still emerge top of the pile.

“Germany, for example, in ’08 played three of the worst games of hockey I’ve ever seen them play the first three games and then they came out and won the tournament, so it is possible,” remarked Dwyer, the five-time World Player of the Year.

The result sees Australia lying fourth in the six-team pool on three points after three matches, with the top four set to progress to the quarter-finals.

Great Britain, their next opponents, sit one place and one point ahead.

In the other pool, Pool B, Germany and Netherlands have secured their places in the quarter-finals.

Australia’s men have just 24 hours’ turnaround before the second match of their crunch double-header, against Great Britain, at 8:30pm on Wednesday (9:30am AEST, Thursday).

The Brits, ranked fourth in the world, lost 4-1 to Belgium on day one and drew 2-2 with New Zealand before thumping hosts Brazil 9-1 on Wednesday night (Thursday morning AEST).

Lawrence West

olympics.com.au

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