The next two match days of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup will determine the fate of the six teams participating. After two matches, Australia lead the standings with four points, followed by India and Great Britain, also on four points but an inferior goal difference. There is a three point gap with the next three teams – Japan, New Zealand and Malaysia – all on one point. The plum tie on Day 3 ( Tuesday ) will be between Australia and India.
The two teams are expected to meet in Saturday’s final and it promises to be a display of Hockey in a class of its own. Australia showed that they can step up a gear when needed as they displayed in their 6-1 demolition of Malaysia. Coach Colin Batch has made positional changes for some players and it did affect their structure in the first match against New Zealand. But the flair, tenacity and high work rate was visible against Malaysia.
“Matches against India are always tough and it will be no different on Tuesday,” said Colin.” We need to be careful not to caught in possession or loose the ball easily as India has fast forwards.”
India after a stuttering start where they gave away a lead twice to draw 2-2 against Great Britain, showed plenty of composure and patience as they carved out a 3-0 win over New Zealand. “The youngster are gaining confidence and the match against Australia will be a good test for then,” said Indian coach Roelant Oltmans. ” Of course we want to win every game we play but that always cannot be the case. ” A good performance will satisfy me.”
For Malaysia the match against Great Britain is crucial to have any hopes of making the final. While accepting that his team were not at their best against Australia, coach Stephen van Huizen is looking towards a better performance on Tuesday. “We need to get something out of the match against Great Britain,” conceded Stephen. ” We were loose at the back and at the same time failed to retain possession.
“Britain are a good side and their transfer of play can stretch any Defence. “Our players need to show more determination on the pitch and not let reputation of the opponents affect them.” For Britain coach Bobby Crutchley, improvement as the tournament progresses is what he is looking for. ” Malaysia are always a difficult team to play, especially at home,” said Bobby.
“They had a poor match against Australia and may just pick up the momentum against us. We need to thread with caution.”
Japan and New Zealand will be out to collect all three points to stay in contention for a better placing in the classification matches should they miss the cut for the final. So every team has their own reason to do well.
And the matches on Tuesday will differentiate the potential finalists from the pretenders.
Photo Credits: Malaysian Hockey Confederation