Two years ago, Argentina sprung a surprise by breaking pattern and winning its maiden Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro. Needless to say, Les Leones will be eager to boost their status in Bhubaneswar and acquire the rare tag of World and Olympic champion. Head coach German Orozco, who replaced Olympic champion coach Carlos Retegui, acknowledges the expectations and the pressure associated with the world No. 2 side, which consists of well-known players such as Pedro Ibarra and Gonzalo Peillat
“Many of these players are Olympic champions and do not want to settle for that alone. The players know that what they achieved in Rio came as a result of hard work,” Orozco was quoted as saying by the Pan American Hockey Federation website. “To repeat that success will be very difficult, but we will try to build on that achievement. We have taken stock of the Olympic success and we will use what worked well and re-evaluate the things we know we can do better.”
In July, Argentina finished second in a four-nation tournament that involved Germany, France and Ireland, and then travelled Down Under to play a Test series against Australia before securing a win at the Darwin International event. Ahead of alighting in Bhubaneswar, the Argentine players will go through an intense camp in their capital city, Buenos Aires.
The team, which will have a majority of the 2016 Olympic gold medallists as the core of the side, is at the peak of its fitness. Orozco, who played in the 2000 and 2004 Games and had good stints with top European clubs Hamburg in Germany and Orange Zwart in the Netherlands, has put his players through physical work on the athletics track, in the gym as well as the pool, apart from rigorous physical training.
Along with the Netherlands, England, Malaysia and Canada, Argentina qualified for the World Cup after picking up a slot among the top five countries in the first Hockey World League Semifinals in London in June last year. It will be interesting to see whether the reigning Olympic champion wins its first World Cup title.
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