Australia thumped South Africa 7-0 in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. The Aussies' keepers are yet to be tested in the tournament. – Bernama Photo
IPOH: Defending champions Australia are the team to beat in the 23rd edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament.
The Kookaburras, led by forward and five times World Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer, have the best strike force and defence in the six-nation tournament.
The world number one, who are in Ipoh with their top players, have been in smashing form – amassing a total of 20 goals in three matches.
They trounced China (7-0), Canada (6-0) and South Africa (7-0) to lead the standings with maximum points.
Rookie defender Nicholas Budgeon is currently the top scorer for Australia with five goals – four from penalty corners and one field goal.
The world champions also have yet to concede a goal in three matches.
Skipper Mark Knowles said that their goalkeepers Andrew Charter and Tyler Lovell have yet to be tested after three matches.
“We have two of the best keepers in the world but they have hardly been tried out in the tournament.
“We want them to be tested as preparation for the World Cup (in The Hague in May),” said Knowles.
Liam Deyoung, 32, meanwhile, will be making his 300th international appearance for Australia in the match against Asia Cup champions South Korea on Thursday.
Knowles said that they are looking forward to a good match against the speedy Koreans.
Australia, who are gunning for their eighth title, just need a draw against the Koreans to seal a place in the final.
Korean coach Shin Seok-kyo said they want to be the first team to burst the Australians’ bubble.
“Although Australia are the strongest team in the tournament, we will go all out to score against them.
“We are here to qualify for a place in the final and we need good results against them to achieve our target,” said Seok-kyo.
South Korea, ranked seventh in the world, have seven points from three matches.
They will wrap up their fixtures with a match against South Africa on Saturday.