Ipoh, Malaysia: Hosts Malaysia would look to end their title drought when they clash with six-time champions Australia in the summit clash of the 22nd Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament on Sunday.
Deservingly, two of the best teams on view have made it to the summit clash. Ever the bridesmaid, a tag sitting not too well on the hosts since the inception, Malaysia will be just that much keen to erase the unwanted baggage.
The finalists in 1985, 2007 and 2009, Malaysia have possibly the best chance to win their first Azlan Shah Trophy. A perfect gift it would be from the veteran Chua Boon Huat, who would like to sign off with the accomplishment after figuring in 11 editions without tasting the win.
The optimistic Malaysia coach Paul Revington said Australia were far superior but hoped that his boys will dish out a different ball game on the morrow.
Australian coach Ric Charlesworth said it was a great learning curve for the players playing the ultra defensive Korea and barely managing a face-saving draw.
Charlesworth said he has every reason to hope that they will win seventh title.
"Only the heroic efforts of Malaysian goalkeeper Kumar came in our way of a victory. We have to be more consistent in the penalty corners and just cannot afford to fritter away the handfuls in the summit clash," he said.
Charlesworth said he is not perturbed by the injuries to strikers Timothy Bates and Daniel Beale, who could not take the field against Korea.
"We have the adequate bench strength and there is hope of the injured players taking the field and used sparingly."
On experience, Malaysia though hold a slender advantage with only six players having played less than 100 internationals. That on paper advantage, did not have any effects on Charlesworth, who said that his team is in full flight and it boils down in keeping up that level for one final shot.
On form and showing, the Aussies are known to be the most dangerous having smelled the win much like the Germans known for their ways in wriggling out of hopeless situations.
Statistics too are heavily loaded in favour of Australia, the hosts having a dismal record of winning just six in 78 encounters and eight drawn encounters.
Buoyed by the all-round sterling display against Pakistan, Malaysian coach Revington said that it had been the best display of his team since he took over last year.
All the same, the team's inability to hold on to the lead is an area of concern for the coach. For him, the lessons learnt are in knowing that the team need not attack at all times.
"There are moments when the pace has to be softened a bit and the defence tightened. Getting nine penalty corners against Pakistan was a feat but in making capital use of those is not palatable," he said.
For the hosts, the going had been pretty smooth save for the odd moments of anguish. But then, the current World Champions are made of sterner stuff with sentiments having no place in their cup of armoury.