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Hager: 'GB are fifth best in world - but can defend title in Tokyo'

Hager: 'GB are fifth best in world - but can defend title in Tokyo'

01/02/2020 at 21:55

Great Britain women's coach Mark Hager believes his side are fifth best in the world ahead of next summer's Olympic title defence.

Britain have had mixed results since winning gold in Rio and required a play-off to reach Tokyo 2020, while they began the FIH Pro League season with a 2-1 defeat against Australia on Saturday.

Hager admits his first year in charge has been a "baptism of fire" but hopes to build winning momentum now a lengthy injury list has eased.

GB face Australia again on Sunday before travelling to New Zealand for a second double-header.

Mark Hager gives a team talk to GB's hockey team

Mark Hager gives a team talk to GB's hockey teamGetty Images

"I think we're pretty much fifth [in the world]," Hager told Eurosport before the squad departed Down Under.

"You've got the Netherlands, Australia, Germany and Argentina above. We’ve got the potential, as do New Zealand and Spain a little behind us. Any of those teams can click and win games. It's about getting it right at the right time.

"I still have the belief that we can win the gold medal otherwise we won't be going. We're not going there to participate, but – and it’s all the clichés – we have to take it game by game, get to the quarter-finals and go from there."

The Dutch have dominated women’s hockey since losing a thrilling shootout to Britain in the 2016 Olympic final, winning the inaugural Pro League last season, plus the World Cup and Champions Trophy in 2018.

"On their day, the Dutch are very difficult to beat," Hager said.

"But I like watching Liverpool at the moment – they're so far above everyone else, but a coach and a team will figure it out, find a weakness and then everyone will copy that.

"We have to start believing that we can beat the Dutch. I think of our Lee Valley game where we lost 1-0 in the last minute or so, and we had a corner goal disallowed just before that, so it highlights we can do it with this team."

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Britain may soon be able to recall Olympic gold medallist Alex Danson after she returned to the national setup following 18 months out with a freak head injury.

Danson, who was not considered for the matches with Australia and New Zealand, banged her head on a wall in 2018 after laughing at her boyfriend's joke.

"We had a lot of injuries, we had a few concussions," added Hager. "Only three players played every game in the Pro League, so we didn’t have a consistent team – we were always chopping and changing and experimenting.

"It’ll be tough, but these four games are perfect for us to start the season. It will give us a good gauge if we’re going in the right direction."