Kookaburras brace for intimidating Olympic atmosphere

KOOKABURRAS playmaker Simon Orchard says Australia are bracing themselves for a fired-up Great Britain and Barmy Army-style atmosphere in a blockbuster fourth group game of the London Olympics at the Riverbank Arena on Sunday.

Orchard admitted there was plenty of feeling between Australia and the hosts any time they clash, but on Sunday the stakes will be even higher as top spot in the quarter-finals is up for grabs.

Both teams have two wins and a draw after their opening three games. Australia have a superior goal difference and a win would ensure they finish first in the group, but a loss or a draw would put a dent in those plans and leave them needing a result in their final pool game against Pakistan.

"It's going to be a massive game,'' Orchard said.

"It will probably decide if it's us or them [who finish top] and I'm sure the crowd will help their cause, that's for sure.''

Orchard was confident the world champions would rise to the occasion, no matter how parochial and intimidating the atmosphere.

"The more vocal hockey fans that come out, the better,'' Orchard said.

"The Europeans do it really well.

"They're a bit more boisterous than crowds back home.

"They get into it and they're really passionate.

"I'm sure it will be a full house and that will make it difficult. We're going to have to deal with the noise and that will make it hard to communicate.

"We'll just have to deal with that and focus on our hockey.''

As is the case with most Anglo-Australian sporting events, Orchard said there was much more on the line than two competition points.

"I think so,'' he said.

"It's a bit of a grudge match and for whatever reason, they seem to back themselves a bit against us.

"They knocked us over in the first game of the World Cup two years ago, which was disappointing.

"I don't know, you hit the nail on the head, the Ashes is a big rivalry, but this is similar.''

After hammering South Africa (6-0) and Spain (5-0) in their opening two games, Australia suffered their first setback on Friday when they led Argentina 2-0 at half-time, only to draw 2-all.

While coach Ric Charlesworth was disappointed his players did not wrap up a victory, he felt it was a timely wake-up call for the gold-medal favourites.

"It's good to get this game out of the way,'' Orchard said.

"We've got almost two full days to recover.

"We've had a couple of early starts and hopefully we can get a bit of freshness in the legs and go on and put in another good performance.''

Australia have had back-to-back 8.30am starts, which means waking at 5am for a team talk, breakfast and stretching.

Orchard said the schedule had been challenging and was looking forward to Sunday's 7pm time slot.

"It's not ideal, and it's something I'm not used to,'' he said.

"I don't usually go to bed at nine or 10 o'clock very often.

"In saying that, it's an Olympics, and if you can't get up for a game something's wrong.

"In a perfect world, we'd play in the middle of the day, but that's the schedule and we've got the two 8.30am games out of the road and we haven't lost.''

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