Aussies favourites against Malaysians in Azlan final
Olympic champions Australia would be starting as odds-on favourites against hosts Malaysia in the final of the 16th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament in Ipoh on Sunday.
Despite being without seven World Cup stars, the Aussies still looked the best of the eight teams in Ipoh, notwithstanding their shock 1-0 defeat to Argentina in a group match.
If anything, the Aussie bench-strength, represented by a clutch of young players, has been the envy of all and coach Colin Batch cannot stop showering praise on the fresh faces in his team.
"The young players have made the best of this opportunity and we are happy at the way they have been shaping," he said.
The Australian policy of rotating their players has fetched them rich dividends as the team has noticeably improved, in fact, quite dramatically so, after a sluggish start that saw them edging past India 1-0 in the opener before suffering a reverse to Argentina.
"The weather was a factor as both our opening matches were played in the heat and humidity of afternoon. But now, my players have settled down to the conditions in Ipoh and we are looking to carry forward our winning momentum on Sunday against Malaysia," said the Batch.
The Aussie game plan revolves around their senior players like Bevan George and Matthew Wells at the back, Robert Hammond and Brent Livermore in the midfield and strikers Grant Schubert and Liam Deyoung, all part of the 2006 World Cup squad.