Kookas confidence sky-high in London

THEY have launched their London Olympics campaign with two crushing victories, but the Australian men’s hockey team are merely warming up.

So says Maitland midfielder Simon Orchard, who has starred in the Kookaburras’ wins against South Africa (6-0) and Spain (5-0) and is eyeing another dominant performance in the round-three clash with Argentina at the Riverbank Stadium today (5.30pm AEST).

Orchard stopped short of saying the four-time world champions had a sense of invincibility, but he gave an insight into the iron will and positive mindset he hopes will intimidate rival teams.

‘‘We know deep down that if everyone plays to their potential and their ability, it’s very hard for any team to beat us,’’ Orchard said.

‘‘Other teams will probably look at the result, 5-0 against Spain, who are world-class opposition, and be thinking Australia are pretty strong.

‘‘We’re just focusing on ourselves. We’ve had six or seven goal scorers in two matches, and if everyone’s a threat, it’s very hard for our opposition to focus on just one or two players.

‘‘I think that’s the key. If everyone does their part, chasing and running, and our energy is good, eventually we’ll knock a few in.’’

He said there was no reason why Australia would not continue to improve and gain momentum from each win.

‘‘That’s the aim,’’ he said. ‘‘By the end of the tournament, we want to be at our peak.

‘‘Spain are a really good side ... but the way we play, we just try to suffocate teams, and I think that showed in the second half.

‘‘It was like a wall, and we had chance after chance.

‘‘Everything’s a step towards the final. A 5-0 result, no goals against, is pretty good.’’

One slip-up in Beijing left Australia with a bronze medal instead of the ultimate prize, and Orchard said Australian coach Ric Charlesworth would ensure his players kept their feet on the ground.

‘‘That’s why Ric is so good,’’ Orchard said. ‘‘Once you start thinking you’re too good, that’s when he pulls you into line.

‘‘We’ve got a lot of guys in the team who have been there, done that, and they’ve got a lot of experience.

‘‘That helps. I think our goal is not just to win a gold medal but put in a polished performance each game.

‘‘Six-nil and five-nil are two great results, but we won’t be happy until we beat everyone like that.’’

Orchard said Wednesday’s win against Spain was an improvement on the first round because they were a higher standard of opposition.

‘‘Ric really rates Spain and thinks they’re a big threat,’’ Orchard said. ‘‘They beat the boys in Beijing and they’re the sort of team we’ve really struggled with in the past.

‘‘They’ve got an an ability to play really quick and exciting hockey.

‘‘I hope Ric’s happy, but after the same he said, ‘Job’s done. That’s it. We move onto Argentina.’’’

The 26-year-old, a veteran of 110 internationals, said Argentina play a similar brand of hockey to Spain but may well be ultra-defensive out of respect for Australia’s hot form.

‘‘They’ve obviously got that South American flair,’’ he said. ‘‘They’re a team that can hurt you. They fall away a lot and clog the back half.

‘‘We like to play free-flowing, attacking hockey, and they’re probably going to drop into the 50 and stifle our attacking play.

‘‘We had five or six games against them earlier in the year in Perth and they were some real battles – like 1-0, 2-1, not many big scores – so it’s going to be another grinding performance.

‘‘Hopefully we can knock an early one in, and if we can do that I think the wall will break down and we can run over them.’’

Orchard scored his first Olympic goal against Spain and had another couple of chances.

He said it was ‘‘really, really special’’ to score with friends and family cheering him on from the stands.

‘‘I’m just glad I contributed,’’ he said.

‘‘We had a fair few opportunities as a team. I don’t know how many shots we had and it’s disappointing we were a bit wasteful.

‘‘But 5-0, it’s a great team performance.

‘‘They had two corners but I don’t think they had much else.’’

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