Asian Champions Trophy: Malaysia coach Roelant Oltmans on India's chances of Tokyo Olympics qualification, Pakistan's woes and more
Ahead of the Asian Champions Trophy, former India coach Roelant Oltmans talks to Firstpost about the Indian hockey team's chances of making it to the Tokyo Olympics, Pakistan team's problems and his new gig as coach of Malaysia.
Despite their failure to win the gold medal at the Asian Games, India will have the best chance among the Asian countries to seal a spot at the 2020 Asian Games, believes former India coach Roelant Oltmans.
The Dutchman was the Pakistan chief hockey coach until recently, but will now lead Malaysia at the Hero Asian Champions Trophy, which begins on Thursday. The Malaysians stunned India at Asian Games in September – derailing the Asian giants' plans to seal qualification to the Tokyo Olympiad with a gold medal – before losing to Japan in the final.
Oltmans was hired soon after by the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) to steer the Malaysian team to the Olympics.
"Because of their world ranking (India are currently ranked No 5 in the FIH standings), they will have the best shot at sealing qualification for the Tokyo Games as they will get to play a lower ranked team. It is reasonable to expect them to make it to the Olympics," he told Firstpost. Oltmans, however, refuses to discuss the Indian team further saying, "That book is now closed."
Malaysia, meanwhile, are the second-best ranked team in Asia at No 12. Oltmans believes the team has what it takes to make it to the Olympics.
"The target set by MHC is to make sure that this team is at the 2020 Games. At the Asian Champions Trophy, our immediate target is to make it to the semi-finals. We don't expect Oman to be one of the semi-finalists. But among the other five, each team has the credentials to make it to the semis.
"We now also have to start keeping an eye on the Olympics as well. Malaysia already have a good structure, besides as their players showed at the Asian Games, they are a good quality team. But we're working on the team's ability to change strategy mid-way through games, should things not be going our way," the 64-year-old says.
Oltmans had some sharp words for the Pakistan Hockey Federation after his stint with their national team ended in a few months.
"The Pakistan team was on the right track. We were working on improving. But the climate to perform and the necessary circumstances were not present. There is a lack of facilities in Pakistan.
"The federation also lacks a long-term plan. They need to understand that they need to give the team a long time for them to get to where they want to be," he said.
While India may not finish last even if they lose to Japan on Thursday, the loss will take the hosts to their worst placing ever, which will be between 13 and 16.
Hockey World Cup 2023: Belgium and Australia secure Semi-final berths but not taking anything for granted
Australia beat Spain 4-3 in the quarter-finals, whereas Belgium fended off a spirited challenge from New Zealand 2-0.
Hockey World Cup 2023: Grambusch brothers shine in Germany's 'crazy' win over England to enter semifinals
The German fightback was reminiscent of their national football team which is famous for its never-say-die attitude and came back after England were 2-0 ahead till the 58th minute.