Germany seeks spot among greats in Olympic field hockey
Germany is looking to establish a run of Olympic men's field hockey dominance unseen in more than half a century.
The Germans seek their third straight gold medal in Rio this August. With a victory, Germany would become the first nation to win at least three consecutive golds since India won six straight from 1928 to 1956.
There's plenty of veteran leadership and experience left over from Germany's past winners, including two former FIH (International Hockey Federation) Player of the Year award winners -- Tobias Hauke (2013) and Moritz Furste (2012). Maximilian Muller, Benjamin Wess, Oliver Korn and Christopher Zeller also have a pair of gold medals.
The path is lined with tough challengers, including top-ranked Australia led by stars Jamie Dwyer and Mark Knowles. The Kookaburras won the Champions Trophy in June.
Dwyer, the five-time FIH Player of the Year, was on the 2004 gold-medal winning squad, but Australia settled for bronze in both Beijing and London. He's 37 years old, but still performing at a high level.
''He has an underlying competitive desire,'' Australia coach Graham Reid said. ''The way he approaches training and the way he approaches games -- he brings that to everything to do with hockey, even off the field. He's diligent, he's professional. And that's what, I think, gives you that longevity. Longevity is not easy in any sport, to be honest, especially in quite a physically demanding sport.''
Knowles is coming into his own at age 31 as he heads into his fourth Olympics. He was the FIH Player of the Year in 2014.
The Netherlands is ranked second and has a long history of being strong at the Olympics. Robert van der Horst, the 2015 FIH Player of the Year, leads the Oranje. He was a part of the Dutch team that earned silver medals at the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 World Cup.
Great Britain should be a threat - England is ranked No. 4 in the world. India is ranked No. 5 and Belgium is No. 6.
Argentina, which won the Pan American Games last year, is No. 7.
Here are some things to watch as competition begins in Rio:
The Kookaburras have the No. 1 ranking and perhaps something even more important -- a victory at the 2014 World Cup. Australia rolled past the Netherlands 6-1 in the final.
''I think perhaps it helps a little bit in belief that some of this group has,'' Reid said. ''That always helps to know that you can win a really important title like that. Unfortunately, it's a long bow to draw to say that just because we won the World Cup, it will have too much bearing on the Olympic Games.''
India finished second in the Champions Tourney and has moved up to No. 5 in the world rankings. The squad seeks its first medal since 1980, when it claimed the gold in Moscow.
Brazil's men will compete in the tournament, though the team was just No. 30 in the latest rankings. The squad finished fourth in the Pan American Games last year.
Host nations have done well the past few Olympics. China's women finished second in Beijing in 2008, and Great Britain's men were fourth in London in 2012, while its women were third.
LUCK OF THE IRISH?
Ireland will make its first ever appearance at the Olympics. The team is No. 12 in the latest rankings and features David Harte, the 2015 FIH Goalkeeper of the Year.
Germany's Christopher Ruhr was named the FIH Rising Star of the Year in 2015. He scored 15 goals in 30 international matches last year. He also won the award in 2013.
KEY MATCHES: Belgium vs. Great Britain, Aug. 6; Netherlands vs. Argentina, Aug. 6; Belgium vs. Australia, Aug. 9; Great Britain vs. Australia, Aug. 10; Netherlands vs. Germany, Aug. 12. Gold medal match, Aug. 18.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter (at)CliffBruntAP