Loss leaves GB on the brink
July 31, 2012 22:45 pm
A day after the women's side secured a maiden Great British volleyball win, the lights went out on their male counterparts' Olympic quarter-final dream.
Harry Brokking's side were blown away by Australia at Earls Court - the Volleyroos too big and too strong for the host nation in a match that promised much but lasted little over an hour.
With the women having beaten Algeria in thrilling circumstances to secure an odds-defying success, hopes were high that the men would follow suit. It would be a case of after the Lord Mayor's show, though. All too often GB lost their way at the net, often failing to find their spikers and, when they did, not being able to get beyond the mountainous Thomas Edgar.
The 6ft 11in Queenslander was practically unpassable at the net and, at the end of their 3-0 defeat, Britain were left to face up to needing to win at least two of their last three group games in order to achieve their pre-tournament target.
It is almost certain that will not happen and when assessing the loss, coach Brokking laid it out simply. As a team, his players have not played enough top-quality opponents.
"You have to do something 100 times before you can handle it, and we cannot handle the pressure," the Dutch tactician told Press Association Sport.
"We were focusing on the first two matches and hoping to get results. Today, they put us under pressure with their jump serves. We couldn't handle it and we couldn't get our rhythm. We fight, but we don't have the experience to fight. That's difficult.
"It was always a stretch to qualify and now we now play three (Poland) and four (Italy) in the world and we can do nothing but enjoy it and try to play our own game."
He tried his best to chivvy his players up, hooking off captain Ben Pipes early on, along with normally-prolific power-hitter Dami Bakare. Experienced heads such as Jason Haldane and Andy Pink were thrown on, but there was little they could do.
"We fought hard but Australia showed a lot of strength, a lot of quality and we couldn't match it," Pipes said. "I think it was in there in moments, but it was just coming and going. The Aussies were putting us under that much pressure that it's easy to lose your own game. That was an influence.
"They are big, big guys and if you play the wrong kind of game, it's lights out. Their serve was strong and they had good discipline."
Italy are Britain's next opponents on Thursday, with little more than pride to play for. As a result, Brokking may look to get more out of the likes of Joel Miller and Peter Bakare - the latter did not play - with one eye on the future.
The 41-year-old Haldane has confirmed he will retire at the end of the Games, while it remains to be seen how much longer other senior players such as Pink and Mark McGivern will play on for.
As the leader of the side, though, Pipes was refusing to be too downbeat, giving a nod towards needing to find something to build on.
"We go into every game with a thought and a dream of a chance, but you have to play a perfect game and we haven't done yet," he said. "We keep going, looking for things to work on. We must keep growing and keep evolving."
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