By David Gold

dannykerryJanuary 26 - Great Britain's women's hockey coach, Danny Kerry, has criticised the new format of the Champions Trophy which gets underway in Rosario, Argentina, this weekend.

Kerry's team play their opening pool game against Japan on Saturday (January 28), before facing the Netherlands and China, and under the new system will then take part in the quarterfinals.

The final pool positions will determine the quarterfinals, and Kerry argues this devalues the first three matches.

Kerry told insidethegames: "Nations [will] look at group games and wonder what's the point?

"That needs some discussing.

"It's interesting from the perspective that there are world ranking points at stake.

"You can win your three group games and lose your one quarterfinal and be playing off for fifth to eight which seems to have no bearing on performance.

"So there's huge frustration from all coaches over the format and unfortunately television seems to make the decisions.

"The commercial angle seems to be the driving force and ultimately I think that will cause problems.

"FIH (International Hockey Federation) need to think much harder before they tinker with tournament format."

One example cited by Kerry was the situation of the South African women's team, whose Olympic Committee have requested that they compete in qualifiers later this year rather than take up their slot at London 2012.

Kerry says that this was caused by them losing their quarter final after having won their first three games at last year's Champions Challenge, leading to their Olympic Committee saying that they were not good enough to play in London without competing in the qualifiers.

Regardless of the debate over the format, Britain's women are positive of competing well at the Champions Trophy next week.

Kerry's team had a five hour coach trip to Rosario from Córdoba on Monday (January 23), having competed in the Four Nations' tournament with Argentina, New Zealand and South Korea, to whom they lost in the final.

"The irony was we probably played our best performance in the final," Kerry said.

"We weren't too disappointed with the loss but were pleased with the level of the performance.

"It was always going to be decided by some pretty fine margins – we felt pretty good about the standard of our performance."

Britain had beaten all three opponents prior to the final, giving them confidence ahead of the Champions Trophy, the last two finals of which have been between Argentina and the Netherlands.

"We'll look to keep the level of our competition really it becomes about focusing on each match.

"We've felt that since 2010, when we won bronze at the World Cup, if we play to our potential we know we're very competitive at the highest level, we've only lost two games between 2010 and now in sixty odd internationals.

"I genuinely believe if we hit our top level of performance we stand every chance of mixing it with Argentina and Holland."

Alex Danson_27-01-12
That is a view echoed by the forward Alex Danson (pictured), one of the more experienced members of the squad with 123 caps and 29 goals.

"Everything we do is about being the best, the best preparation and best in our sleep and nutrition and obviously in our game.

"If we want to win gold we have to beat these teams [Argentina and Holland] and we'll be going out with this mentality to be the best we possibly can be and hopefully it will be good enough on the day.

"In the Champions Trophy every game is huge, and I think Holland and South Korea are really strong.

"Holland will be a really tough game for us should we play them."

Danson, as well as her Reading club-mates and Leicester counterparts in Rosario, could be forgiven for being slightly distracted ahead of Sunday's (January 29) game with the Champions Trophy holders, Netherlands, by the Super Sixes Finals at Wembley Arena, in which their respective teams will be competing.

Back in Argentina though, perhaps their biggest worry will be fatigue, having played four games in five days in Córdoba, and with another six in nine to come in Rosario.

"On one hand it [the Four Nations] was a very useful because the standard was similar to what we face at the Champions Trophy and it's difficult to get that type of competition," Kerry said.

"It was always a balancing issue for us because it was four games in five days, and it does leave issues of fatigue in the group.

"We're working hard this week to recover and refresh for six matches in nine days."

To do that, the coaching staff will reduce the intensity of training from what the squad are used to, as well as reducing conditioning sessions.

Kerry is also refusing to think too far ahead, with the London 2012 Olympic Games drawing ever closer, and says that most of the hard work is already done.

"Your bread and butter work should be done by now and it's really just about getting the fine blend of how to use your players and combinations and tactical details that you are trying to refine.

"We will use the Champions Trophy in that way for the Olympic games but it is not's really about refining and holding some stuff back as the opposition are all looking at each other.

"Ultimately we want to get and perform at a level that is very consistent as we did in Córdoba."

Helping them do that will be Investec, who have come on board as a partner of the team, and their involvement is something Danson has described as "absolutely brilliant," citing them as a major factor in the impressive showing in Córdoba last week.

Kerry is also delighted that they are involved, and says that their investment "allows us to raise the profile of women's hockey".

"People have a very poor understanding of the level that we perform at...I believe us and the women's cricket team are the premier women's team in the country."

Kerry is also encouraging the public back in Britain to switch on their televisions, tune into the BBC and see Champions Trophy action live.

"I'd really stress people to press the red button," he said.

"The BBC know how many people access their service and if we get people behind it they will continue to show it.

"We've obviously got to do our part and put on fantastic performances in tough climatic conditions.

"We are well prepared physically, we've got to hold up our part of the bargain – this is as good as it gets for our sport at the moment and we have to capitalise on that."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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