Monday, March 3, 2014

Australia ready for eighth Azlan Shah Cup title

AUSTRALIA whacked Malaysia 9-0 in Perth on Feb 28 in their final preparation for the Azlan Shah Cup which will be held in Ipoh on March 13-23.
    The defending champions will be gunning for their eighth Azlan Shah Cup title, against the hosts, Canada, China, South Korea and South Africa in the 23rd edition.
     Malaysia went for a playing Tour in Perth, and played a combination of Western Australian sides before the hammering against the Australian High Performance Team.
    The first goal was scored in the 31st minute, while eight more came off a second half onslaught.
     And the Aussies will come to Ipoh with a strong side, led by five-time World Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer, and nine players who competed in the recent Hockey India League.
    Coach Ric Charlesworth’s side look set to claim the title again, as on board will also be three-time Olympian and Athens 2004 gold medallist Liam De Young.
     “The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is our last tournament before the World Cup and the squad has been picked with that in mind,” said Charlesworth.
    “We’ve selected based on a range of objectives, including load management. We’ve got athletes that have played in the Oceania Cup, World League Finals and Hockey India League and we need to look after them with both the World Cup and Commonwealth Games coming up. Some people, like Jamie Dwyer, were rested for the World League Finals but now need to come back and play with the group.”
    Charlesworth added that despite the recent withdrawal of Pakistan, the now six-team tournament has the quality to test Australia.
     “It’s unfortunate that a couple of teams (Pakistan and France) had to pull out but the likes of Korea, Malaysia and South Africa in particular are quality teams that will be at the World Cup.
   “The tournament format means that we’ll also have a few two-day rest periods, which is unusual in hockey but which we will experience in The Hague and at the Commonwealth Games so that too will be good preparation,” said Charlesworth.
    In the other matches in Perth against a mixed side, Malaysia went down 5-1, 7-1 and 4-2 and the only ray of light was a 3-3 draw.
    “We took a mixed side on the tour and the results were expected, but we still have three more matches against Canada in Malacca this weekend to select the best side for the Azlan Shah Cup,” said Dharmaraj.
    Malaysia lost 3-2 to Australia in the final of the last edition.