Youthful Aussies eye Olympic glory

Australia on Monday set their sights on reclaiming Olympic gold after winning the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with a group of young players who are expected to challenge for next year`s London squad.

Last Updated: May 16, 2011, 14:58 PM IST

Ipoh: Australia on Monday set their sights on reclaiming Olympic gold after winning the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with a group of young players who are expected to challenge for next year`s London squad.

Coach Ric Charlesworth said winning Sunday`s final against Pakistan - which left the world, Commonwealth and Champions Trophy title-holders unbeaten in the tournament - was the start of the long road to the 2012 Games.

"This tournament has been a very good test for us and it is also the start of the London programme. We still have a long way to go before we have the team ready," Charlesworth told reporters.

"But the Sultan Azlan Shah allowed me the opportunity to try out the younger set of players and that proved to be good exercise," he added.

"The win will only boost the morale of the players and I expect several of the young players to aim for a place in the London team."

The Australians scored a golden goal through Christopher Ciriello in extra time to defeat Asian champions Pakistan 3-2 in the final in Ipoh, northern Malaysia.

The victory in the seven-team tournament came despite Australia bringing a new-look squad due to unavailability and injuries, with only Liam De Young, 29, and Fergus Kavanagh, 25 having more than 100 caps.

"We had the youngest team here in Ipoh and in terms of international matches as we had only played around 40 games compared to the other teams which were well over 100 matches since the World Cup last year," Charlesworth said.

"The other teams also had young players but they have been in and out of their teams so they had more experience," he added.

"We started off slow as the players were a little rusty after a long lay-off. But we have a lot of senior players who will soon be back in the team as we prepare for this year`s Champions Trophy in December in New Delhi."
Australia won the 2004 Olympics under Barry Dancer but lost out at the 2008 Games in Beijing. Charlesworth took over in 2009 and has since won the Champions Trophy twice, the 2010 World Cup and the Commonwealth Games title.

"The target of course is to win the gold medal again in London," Charlesworth said.
"The players will take a lot of positives back with them. They will be celebrating the win for now but after a week or so we will have to get down to serious work... I hope to have a strong side for London."

Australia won the title in Ipoh without losing any of their seven matches. In the round-robin stage they beat Malaysia 2-1, drew 1-1 with India and beat Pakistan 5-2, alongside wins over Britain, South Korea and New Zealand.

Bureau Report