The West

Spain the big test of Aussie resolve
Fergus Kavanagh. Pic: Getty Images

Australian men's hockey coach Ric Charlesworth has put his team on notice for today's clash against the highly-rated Spain.

The Kookaburras hammered South Africa 6-0 in their first match on Monday, but the Spanish are far more formidable.

While Australia remain raging favourites to win gold, the Kookaburras respect the claims of Great Britain (ranked fourth) and Spain (fifth) who are in the same pool.

Great Britain thumped Argentina 4-1 in their opening encounter while Pakistan surprisingly held Spain to a 1-1 draw.

Recent history provides an intoxicating backdrop to Australia's clash against the Spanish.

In Beijing, Spain overwhelmed the Kookaburras in the second half of the semifinal to take victory after the Australians led 2-0 at half-time.

And, in the final of the 2011 Champions Trophy the Kookaburras triumphed 1-0 in a titanic tussle which saw the game decided by a penalty corner.

Charlesworth, displeased with some aspects of the Kookaburras work against South Africa, said: "We will need to be on our mettle to get a result.

"We played them in the final of the Champions Trophy last year. There was one corner in the match.

"They have 10 silver medallists from the last Olympics.

"What more do I need to say? They are a very good team."

Key players Jamie Dwyer and WA defender Fergus Kavanagh, the two best Kookaburras in Monday's demolition, supported the sentiments of the coach.

"They offer more on the counter-attack and come at you nice and fast," Kavanagh said.

He said that while the South Africans were tough competitors, he was looking forward to a more intense battle with Spain to get the Kookaburras prepared for the extra pressure that will come later.

Dwyer, one of five players in the team which lost to Spain in Beijing, said the memories of the match motivated him.

"It was a long time ago, four years and only five of us were at the Olympics who went through that experience," he said.

"For me, personally it hurts and I've used it for motivation in the past.

"Spain are a very tough opposition. They have some of the best strikers in the world if not the best forward line in the world.

"Ten players are still in the team that won silver in Beijing, so they are a very experienced team who have played a lot of hockey together.

"We know we need to play our game well to beat them.

"We need to play better probably than what we did against South Africa to have a chance."

Dwyer's hat-trick against South Africa lifted his tally to 179 goals, drawing him level with Mark Hager as Australia's all-time record scorer.

While Charlesworth applauded the feat, he also added a note of caution.

"I believe we have a depth of players who can finish and finish very well, we won't be successful in this tournament unless they all play a role," Charlesworth said.

We will need to be on our mettle to get a result."Ric Charlesworth

The West Australian

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