Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: Hope to give favourites Australia a good contest, says India coach Oltmans
Ipoh: Pleased with his wards showing in the 6-1 thrashing of Malaysia in the must-win
match, Indian men's hockey team coach Roelant Oltmans said he is hopeful of giving world champions Australia a keen contest in the final of the 25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on Sunday.
"I'm pleased to see the energy of the boys. That's what you want to see as a coach," said Oltmans, who had set a target of finishing among the medalists in the tournament.
The Indian victory secured them the second spot in the round-robin league standings with 12 points, edging past defending champions New Zealand on 11 points. Australia duly topped the standings with the maximum 18 points from six successive victories.
"The finals are always special. I want to test and see what our boys will do," said Oltmans.
"I'm happy that the team played strongly and applied pressure. That is why we were on top of it throughout. Now we need to focus on the final," he said.
"Playing the final against Australia is a great opportunity for us," said the Dutchman, aware of the 5-1 hammering Australia gave to India in their league encounter earlier in the tournament.
"Yes we did lose by a big margin, but the scoreline is a bit harsh. We played a good game, but the outcome was terrible. In the final, we ought to try to combine a good game with a good outcome," the coach said.
Oltmans acknowledged Australia's world no. 1 standing but expect his boys to give the Kookaburras a run for their money.
"Australia are the best, there's no doubt about that. We hope to give them a good contest," he said.
Malaysian coach Stephen van Huizen said India's early thrust put the game beyond his team's reach.
"I'm disappointed with the early goals, but the boys fought hard," said Van Huizen.
"The game was over when we conceded four goals in the first half."
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India's tour of Australia begins with the opening ODI at the Great Barrier Reef Arena in Mackay on 21 September and concludes with the third and final T20I at the Metricon Stadium in Gold Coast on 10 October.
Players employed with Indian Railways, including Vandana Katariya and former captain Sushila Chanu, were felicitated at an event organised by former player Happy Mann and others.
"We are eager to begin our quest for gold at the Paris Olympics. We will have to approach step-by-step, and our first step will be to qualify directly for the Olympic Games 2024 by winning Gold at the 2022 Asian Games," Hardik said in a Hockey India media release.