Champions Trophy: Great Britain's men 'don't fear defeat' in New Zealand

Champions Trophy

Venue:
Auckland, New Zealand
Date:
3-11 December, 2011
Coverage:
Watch live on liveFIH.tv, highlights (UK users only) and reports on BBC Sport website
England celebrate winning bronze

Great Britain captain Barry Middleton says his team no longer fear losing as they prepare to take on top rivals at the Champions Trophy in New Zealand.

Coach Jason Lee had suggested ahead of the tournament that GB must still "learn not to be afraid of defeat".

But Middleton said: "I don't know if it's holding the team back. I don't think there was a fear of losing at [this summer's] European Championships.

"That said, we need to get used to playing the pressure games."

Saturday's opener in the eight-team tournament against Pakistan marks the first fixture of consequence for a British men's team since the Beijing Games of 2008.

Although the squad have mostly trained together as Britain since the last Olympics, they have entered tournaments as the home nations in the interim.

England, by far the strongest home nation, won the 2009 European Championships but have reached only one major final since - the 2010 Champions Trophy, where they lost to World Cup holders Australia. Questions have been raised over the English and, by extension, British ability to cope in big-game environments.

"I hope we can make the top four and reach the final or the medal games here. Those are the sorts of games where we're still learning," Middleton told BBC Sport from the team hotel in Auckland.

"We need to get used to people playing and testing themselves in those but, at the European Championships, we felt quite free. We didn't feel afraid of defeat. We lost our semi-final to a very good German team who knew how to play against us."

Australia, considered one of the strongest candidates for a gold medal at next year's London Olympics, join Spain and Pakistan as Britain's rivals in the group stage of the Champions Trophy. Germany, the Netherlands, Korea and hosts New Zealand form the other group, with the final to be held on Sunday, 11 December.

The Champions Trophy sees eight of the world's best teams invited to face each other and sits behind the Olympics and World Cup in importance, roughly on a par with the Euros. This is the last official world ranking tournament before London 2012.

At an average age of just over 28, the British squad is the oldest at the event - youthful Pakistan, by comparison, have brought a team with an average age of just 24.

"I don't know if that surprises us. The Olympics has kept us going," admitted Middleton, who himself turns 28 next month.

"Some of us, after Beijing 2008, wouldn't have gone on for another four-year cycle. But a home Olympics has kept people going for two, three or four years longer than they otherwise would have done. In the past people had to retire to take up other careers. [With increased funding] people can survive now and don't have to work full-time.

"And the fact is, we've been doing well. If it was a home Olympics but we expected nothing, people wouldn't have stayed on. That we're in with a chance keeps them going."

Defender Alastair Wilson is flying home to the UK on Friday having withdrawn from the British squad with tendonitis around the knee.

Wilson's replacement is 33-year-old Ken Forbes, formerly a South African international, who made his British debut two weeks ago in a friendly against Belgium.

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