Hockey Champions Trophy 2018: Know Your Team - Australia
The city of Breda in the Netherlands shall witness the last ever edition of a tournament, that was once the next big thing in field hockey since FIH World Cup and the Summer Olympics. For the last time, the FIH Men's Hockey Champions Trophy shall be hosted by this city from 23rd of June to 1 July, 2018.
For every team participating in this edition, this shall be nothing less than nostalgia. For many, it shall be the last time they will have a chance to clinch the coveted trophy. The very inaugural match of this tournament will be a blast, since the erstwhile giants of world hockey, India and Pakistan, will meet for their inaugural league match of this final edition.
It's been more than two decades since an Asian team has taken the trophy back home, and for India, who narrowly missed the honours in 2016, this is the last time they can try to take the honours back.
With that, we shall look forward to the teams who will stake their claim for the final Champions Trophy, and who better to start with than the defending champions, Team Australia.
Team Australia: The best to the finish
Without stretching much on the point, we can say without a doubt that Australia, as defending champions, have the first claim on the final edition of the Champions Trophy. Besides winning this trophy for a whopping 14 times, including a flurry of titles from 2008 to 2012, Australia is also the best, going by merely their recent track record.
They're the current Commonwealth champions, the continental champions, the now defunct Hockey World League champions, and the defending world champions as well. You just name the tournament and Australia has won it. They're that brilliant.
Chances at the Champions Trophy
On paper, Australia is already the winner of the FIH Champions Trophy 2018. They've been in top form since 2016, and with the sole exception of their shock exit from Rio Olympics, have practically won every tournament they've laid their hands on. Only recently, they pipped New Zealand to win their 6th successive Commonwealth Games title in men's hockey.
Under the guidance of their coach Colin Batch, who was once instrumental in recreating a formidable team out of the Belgian hockey team since 2012, Australia has been on a roll. In early 2018, they clinched Azlan Shah Cup without a sweat, defeating England comfortably to win the ultimate title.
Barely a couple of weeks later, they entered the Commonwealth Games tournament, where they had no trouble in winning the gold medal, defeating New Zealand comfortably in the finals by 2-0.
Are they invincible?
However, the question persists: Is Australia invincible? Not really, since nothing lasts forever. With concerted efforts, any team has the capacity to surprise this team in their own game, which even includes India.
Nobody expected the Indians to give a tough fight to Australia in the finals of the previous edition of the Champions Trophy, and though Australia won in the penalty shootout, they literally had to fight for the coveted trophy throughout the match. In the end, a win for Australia was more a matter of relief than joy.
Another point of concern for the Australian team would be its tendency to buckle at moments when you least expect them to, something only too synonymous with the current Indian team. Despite being one of the best teams on paper when they departed for Rio Olympics, the Kookaburras barely managed to make the cut for the quarterfinals, where they were whitewashed 0-4 by the Netherlands, one of their worst drubbings ever.
So if they wish to make themselves count for the upcoming FIH World Cup 2018, to be held at Bhubaneswar in late November, they need to curb this tendency rather quickly, before the Champions Trophy even begins.