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Champions Trophy: Pressure on Spain to win at home
July 21, 2006 19:45 IST
Spain are favourites to win their second Champions Trophy gold medal at the men's field hockey tournament, starting in Terrassa, Spain, on Saturday.
The Netherlands, Germany, Pakistan, Australia and Argentina have come to this intimate venue at the home of hockey in Spain, 30 kilometres inland from Barcelona, for the last major international tournament before the men's World Cup in Monchengladbach, Germany, from September 6.
Eight of Spain's team live in Terrassa, where the local buses have images of hockey players permanently painted on them. Spain won its first Champions Trophy at Lahore in 2004 after the Athens Olympics and there are expectations from the hometown to win again, putting pressure on them.
Maurits Hendriks, Spain's Dutch-born coach, agreed the pressure is on to win, but added it applied to all the top teams.
"The same applies to the other top candidates when you get to where we are in the standings, the pressure is always there to win," Hendriks said on Thursday.
"Coming from Holland the expectations are always the same -- you have to win the tournament at home," Hendriks said.
"Instead of seeing it as pressure I see it as a tremendous luxury to play this tournament in a hockey town where so many of the guys come from, so it is an added motivation for me and for the players as well and it should be fun," Hendriks added.
All the coaches are focused on the World Cup.
Barry Dancer, Australia's coach, is looking for improvement in his team after receiving a 6-2 drubbing from the Netherlands in June in the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Kuala Lumpur.
"We need to be getting better at this tournament than we were in Kuala Lumpur and to be better again at the World Cup," Dancer said.
"There is a fair bit of improvement needed and we want to be achieving some aggressive growth over the next two months towards the World Cup," Dancer said.
Australia's preparation has been hampered by the loss of co-captain and stalwart defender Matthew Wells, who badly injured an ankle during a training session in Germany and has returned home and been replaced by Travis Brooks.
Current Olympic champion Australia have won the Champions Trophy tournament eight times, equal with Germany and one ahead of the Netherlands and won the previous Champions Trophy in Chennai beating the Netherlands.
Dancer believes all the top teams are very close.
"The six teams are very even so our prospects here are as good as the other five teams," Dancer said.
Argentina is ranked eighth in the world and coach Sergio Vigil is hoping Argentina can improve in this tournament.
"We start in sixth place and maybe Argentina can step up a place. Even if we only step up one place it will be good for Argentina," Vigil said.
"Every step up we make is a very good opportunity for Argentina to increase its level of performance with matches against the top teams in the world," Vigil said.
"Our objective is to increase our skills technically, physically, conceptually and mentally," Vigil added.