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Korea fancied for Champions Trophy title

This time around, the three nations' coaches say they are finding it hard to play in the heat of Kuala Lumpur.

india Updated: Dec 04, 2007 18:16 IST

Asia's number-one side Korea have taken over from the Netherlands as favourites to win the Champions Trophy, as teams struggle to cope with hot and humid conditions midway through the tournament.

"They are playing so very well and it would be excellent to see an Asian team win this tournament again," said Pakistan coach Manzoor Ul-Hassan.

"But Pakistan ourselves have not lost any kind of hope of playing in the final and we must fight to the end."

Pakistan were the last Asian team to win this tournament back in 1994 and after Korea's impressive 6-2 drubbing against the Dutch on Monday, look the best bet to achieve that feat again.

"Looking at the situation, Korea has the best path. Korea has quite a chance of making the final as they have done well against the stronger team," said Dutch coach Roelant Oltmants.

The top three teams in the world - the Netherlands, Australia and Germany - have dominated world hockey over the last decade and during this period, seven of the Champions Trophy finals featured two of these three teams.

This time around, the three nations' coaches say they are finding it hard to play in the heat of Kuala Lumpur.

Australian coach Barry Dancer said the next few days are crucial to the three top teams who cannot afford to make any mistakes in attack or defence if they want to earn a spot at Sunday's finals.

"The next three rounds will be tough for everybody but we look forward to the challenge. Even lesser-ranked teams can pull off surprises," he said.

After four rounds, Korea are the only team to have played the three giants and managed to beat two of them, including a 1-0 victory over Olympic champions Australia.

They were unlucky to lose 2-1 to world champions Germany, missing several chances to earn at least a point.

Now they are on track to win their remaining three matches against host Malaysia, Pakistan and Britain - and seven points from a possible nine will assure them a spot in the final.

Of the big-three nations who will play each other in coming days, Germany has the best record thus far, having won all their matches, but coach Markus Weise downplayed his team's chances.

"There are still four teams (Germany, Korea, the Netherlands and Australia) and the situation at the top is not clear. It is like holding on to the pole position but we still need to work hard in our next few matches," he said.

Weise said he was happy his players have put aside their problems after failing to finish among the top three in the European Championships in August.

That meant Germany for the first time in history had to win a qualifying tournament in Japan in March to earn a place at the Beijing Olympics.

"There was a setback but all teams go through this. Morale is high and our game is good now. There is pressure for sure but we can overcome it. Obviously we are confident of making the final but our immediate task is Holland next," said Weise.