Hockey: Garcia brings strength to Olympic qualification bid

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The Independent Online

Four years ago Great Britain's hope of qualification for the Sydney Olympics just about evaporated when they were beaten 5-2 by Poland in Osaka, postman Piotr Mikula scoring all five goals. Fortunately, with a 4-3 victory against Belgium and a 3-1 win over Argentina, Great Britain salvaged the situation and made the trip to Sydney.

Today in Madrid they open their qualifying campaign for Athens against Poland who, in addition to Mikula making his 150th international appearance, will include Tomasz Dulkiewicz who scored a hat-trick in a game which England eventually won 4-3 in Barcelona last year.

Making his 300th international appearance for Great Britain will be Russel Garcia, who was missing in Osaka after his flirtation with cocaine. He will greatly strengthen Britain's midfield. With just seven of the teams from the 12 nations tournament to qualify, a good start today is important, particularly as Britain face the Dutch Olympic champions tomorrow.

Britain then face Japan, the European silver medallists Spain and South Africa. While the national coach, Jason Lee, is quietly confident of qualifying, he was quick to point out that there is not a team in the tournament that Britain has not lost to at one time or another.