Hockeyroos win big to qualify for Olympics

The Hockeyroos are off to Japan next year after they defeated Russia to qualify for the Olympics.
The Hockeyroos are off to Japan next year after they defeated Russia to qualify for the Olympics.

Coach Paul Gaudoin predicts the Hockeyroos can give Olympic gold a real shake after they belatedly booked their ticket to next year's Tokyo Games.

The Australian women's hockey team missed out on automatic qualification after they lost to New Zealand on goal difference in the best-of-three Oceania Cup last month.

It meant the Hockeyroos needed to beat 19th-ranked Russia in a two-match series in Perth this week to qualify for a 10th straight Olympics, and nerves were jangling at 2-2 in the first game.

The Hockeyroos eventually prevailed 4-2 in that contest, before romping to a 5-0 victory on Saturday night to wrap up the series and lock in their Olympic berth.

The Hockeyroos are ranked second in the world and will be expected to secure a medal at the Olympics.

Snaring gold ahead of the top-ranked Netherlands will be a tricky task, but the Hockeyroos will take a no-fears approach against any opponent.

Third-ranked Argentina, fourth-ranked Germany, and fifth-ranked England also fancy their chances.

"I think we can go very deep into this tournament and push all the teams that will be there," Gaudoin said.

"The sky's the limit really. We've been building over the last few years, we've risen in ranking.

"We've had some reasonable performances against Holland, which is pleasing. So we're not daunted by playing them.

"We beat them earlier this year in Melbourne, we've drawn with them, went deep into overtime at 1-1.

"We just need to keep improving our level."

Gaudoin said improving the team's physical capabilities was also important, so they can adapt to the heat and humidity of Tokyo.

He said being thrust into a must-win series to qualify for the Olympics could prove to be a blessing.

"Any opportunity to play pressure matches; it's often hard to get that in the global calendar," Gaudoin said.

"Whilst I'd very much prefer to take the first route in to ensure Olympic qualification, it presented a really good opportunity for us to challenge ourselves, to push ourselves, and improve and develop.

"I think that's happened over the past three or four weeks.

"It's just pleasing for them now that they get the opportunity to potentially fulfil their dreams now."

Australian Associated Press