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Three-way tussle to join Australia in Sultan Azlan Shah final

Australia are as good as in the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

The defending champions, chasing their 10th title here, lead the six-team standings with 10 points.

They will wrap up their fixtures against Japan at the Azlan Shah Stadium here today.

That leaves three teams – India, Britain and New Zealand, all on seven points – to battle it out for the other spot in the final.

In today’s other matches, India will play Malaysia while New Zealand will face Britain.

India, Britain and New Zealand would need big wins to deny Australia a place in the final.

Realistically, though, that’s a tall order.

Although Australian head coach Colin Batch prefers to play down his team’s chances, it’s hard to see how Japan can stop them.

“Japan never stop looking for goals and are fast on the counter. They are playing really good hockey and are a very exciting team to watch,” he said.

“But we need the points to confirm our place in the final, so we are not going to let them beat us.

“We are wary of their threat and it will be important that we stay focused.”

Batch surely knows how to mould a winning team, having led the Kiwis to the title in 2012 and 2015. Surely, he has a few tricks up his sleeve against Japan.

The match between world No. 7 Britain and No. 8 New Zealand is set to be a close affair.

The winners of this match will have to wait until after the India-Malaysia match to know their fate.

“We still have a chance to move up and play in the final, but it all depends on our last match against Britain,” said New Zealand coach Darren Smith.

“Even a win will not guarantee us a place. It will depend on India’s match with Malaysia. Britain are in a similar situation.”

Courtesy of The Star