Preview: Great Britain vs Australia

Lily Owsley breaks forwards against China

After a frustrating opening two games in the World League Final, today Great Britain face perhaps their sternest test of the tournament so far as they take on World No2 Australia.

After opening up the competition with a defeat to hosts Argentina, Great Britain Head Coach Danny Kerry was unhappy with the way his side played, stressing that they must improve their performances in the rest of the tournament. What followed was a far better performance against a stubborn and resilient Chinese side in the second game, a match which ended 1-1 despite Great Britain’s dominance. Despite having to settle for a point Kerry was far more upbeat in the aftermath:

“Apart from a five minute period we absolutely controlled the game. China play a low risk defensive strategy and ironically the goal came when two of our players collided so we were a defender light. It was a game where we had lots of chances and given how deep China sat, it was always going to take a bit extra. I was proud of the team, they stuck at what we had to do and so on the whole I’m pretty pleased.”

Sometimes in sport, things just don’t go your way and Kerry admitted that the ball “just wouldn’t go in” against China. The result left Great Britain in third place in the pool with today’s opponents Australia sitting pretty at the top after two wins from two. Undoubtedly Adam Commens’ side are a quality outfit but Kerry, an experienced coach remains undaunted by the challenge:

“In the first two games, both sides tried to stop us from playing. We were stopped by some good defending and we needed to be stronger. We wanted to play, we just weren't allowed to. Australia will want to play more hockey than China so it will be interesting and we are really looking forward to it."

The form of some of Kerry’s players seemed to be coming back in the game against China, with Susannah Townsend once again drawing praise for her willingness to attack at pace from deep positions. Lily Owsley, too showed flashes of what her pace and skill can do to a defence whilst the return of Crista Cullen, expected to feature tonight after sitting out the first two games, should help to provide more of a corner threat for Great Britain.

That’s not to say it will be easy. Australia are ranked second in the world and Coach Adam Commens has made them a physically dominant, relentless outfit capable of beating anyone. Following their fifth place finish at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Australia’s young guns have hit some seriously impressive form. They have racked up a number of medals and took their sensational form into the Rabobank Hockey World Cup, where they finished as silver medallists behind host nation and world number one Netherlands. Since then, the team has won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games (Glasgow, Scotland), silver at the 2014 Argentina Champions Trophy, confirmed their place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games by taking third at the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final in Antwerp and also became Oceania champions. There is little doubt that this current Australia team is once again a major force in world hockey and is more than capable of claiming the Hockey World League title in Rosario.

The team will be led by inspirational captain and all time record caps holder Madonna Blyth, although there are plenty of others who could make a big impact in Rosario. Not least, defender, penalty corner expert and recently crowned Hockey Australia women’s Player of the Year Jodie Kenny top scored at the HWL Semi-Final event in Antwerp with ten goals.

The last time these two sides met was back in 2010 when the Hockeyroos came to England for a two test series. Goals from Shelley Liddelow, Amy Korner, Nicole Arnold and Fiona Boyce gave them a 4-0 win in the first test and in the second goals from Madonna Blyth and Crista Cullen ensured a share of the spoils in a 1-1 draw. The last major tournament these two came together in was in 2008 at the Olympics in Beijing. Blyth was on the score sheet in a 2-0 win for the Hockeyroos in a game that featured Crista Cullen, Helen Richardson-Walsh, Kate Richardson-Walsh and Alex Danson, all of whom should figure today.

Undoubtedly today will be a big test for both sides, so it promises to be a game not to be missed. Tune in to BT Sport at 17:15 to watch all of the action. Alternatively you can follow the match live via our twitter feed @_GBHockey.

GB vs Aus HWL2015