Indian hockey team can clinch medal at Rio: Coach Paul van Ass
New Delhi, March 18 (IANS)
Newly-appointed chief coach of the Indian men's hockey team, Paul van Ass on Wednesday said the difference between the national team and other top international sides has narrowed down and his wards are capable of claiming a medal in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Van Ass, who took charge of the national team on Monday, said the Indian team is getting back to its best after a stupendous performance in the last year.
"After 16 years India won the Asian Games gold last year. This is proof that they have risen and this gave me the motivation to come and join this team. This team has beaten big teams in recent times and the gap is closing," van Ass said in his first interaction with the media.
"While I hope that India will do well in the Olympics but getting back to reality, the Indian team is climbing up which is the work of both the foreign as well as the Indian coaches.
"Seeing them play in the last few tournaments I can say we have a chance to get a medal in the Olympics," van Ass said.
India clinched the Asian Games gold medal for the first time after 1998 and also won silver in the Commonwealth Games under the guidance of Australian Terry Walsh.
The Sardar Singh-led side also basked in the glory of a rare bilateral series win over World Champions Australia in their backyard. India also finished a creditable fourth in the Champions Trophy.
However, van Ass, who guided the Netherlands to silver medals in the 2012 London Games and the 2014 World Cup, said his side will face a tough test in the Hockey World League (HWL) Final that will be take place here in December.
"The real measure for me will be the HWL Final which will be played in India in December and that will give us enough time to create a high performance programme," van Ass, who coached the Dutch team to win the HWL Final 2014, said.
"I will take that tournament, I will see where we stand for the Olympics and the areas of improvement required for 2016."
Commenting on the areas of improvement the coach said: "This team has improved and yes they can improve in many ways. The positive is the technical skill and they can improve and I think they need to inculcate that they need to be cooler under pressure. It's a process and I am here to help them to reach there.
"I will keep the Indian way of play, keep the skill on the pitch and not try not make it a European style. But I will bring in the knowledge that I can provide which will add to their play and I feel India is like any international side today."
Talking about plans to make the team stronger in their play he said, "I will not make them unlearn what they know and have learnt as it will go against their nature," the 54-year-old said.
"But I will try to make the chain stronger; the chain of defence, chain of control, chain of counter control and chain of attack and this is more of European and Australian style.
"The other part is the skilfulness which is what the team is known for and that's the strong point. I will work on the technical as well as the skilful play of the players."