Valencia, June 25 (IANS) Despite bagging the Champions Trophy silver, Indian hockey team head coach Roelant Oltmans wants his wards to improve their game as the team prepares for the six nations tournament starting here on Monday.
Viewed as a warm up against the Rio-bound teams, India will open its campaign against reigning Olympic champions Germany before facing Ireland, Argentina, Spain and New Zealand. Interestingly, India are placed in the same group with Germany, Argentina and Ireland for Rio.
“The level we played in Champions Trophy will not be enough for the Olympics if we are vying for a medal,” Oltmans said in a statement.
“I believe our consistency has improved considerably but we need to get better. This next six weeks will be crucial in terms of peaking at the right time. When it comes to the Olympics, the big teams like world champions Australia and Germany always raise their bar and I keep reminding this to our players.”
“How we play against Argentina and Germany in the tournament will set the momentum to achieve our goals at the Olympics. The focus will be to take it game-by-game and the result will follow if our process is in order and we stick to executing the game plan we have for each of the teams,” he added.
Hailing the performance of the team in London during the Champions Trophy, Oltmans said the Indians were at par with the top teams and can upset any team on their day.
“We played back-to-back matches in London and never let a loss affect our next game. For instance, after drawing the opener with Germany we beat Britain.”
“Though we lost to Belgium, we beat Korea, lost to Australia but drew the final against them. This shows that we have matured as a team and can handle losses better and the level of fitness the boys have shown while playing back-to-back games is a good sign for us,” he said.
The six nations tournament will also be crucial for regular skipper Sardar Singh, who was rested for the Champions Trophy along with Rupinder Pal Singh and Ramandeep Singh. Star goalkeeper PR Sreejesh led the side in Sardar’s absence in London.
Defender Birendra Lakra, who was nursing an injury, will also be seen gaining some match exposure for the first time in four months.
“I am pleased the players have carried out their responsibilities and showed their leadership skills when we rotated the captain’s band in London. The youngsters doing well means that the competition will be stronger within the team to push each other higher to make the final cut for the Rio squad.
“And this tournament will be watched closely on how each player performs ahead of the final selection.” he said.