Hockey World Cup 2018: India among the best teams in the world, says Jose Brasa

Jose Brasa, the former coach, believes “it is easier for India to win the gold medal in this World Cup in front of its audience than any other medal.”

Jose Brasa... “Conceding four penalty corners in such an easy match (against South Africa) was unbelievable and they should not repeat this against big teams.”   -  Rajeev Bhatt

India is now “in the top group of best teams,” and a team that can “win any gold medal in any major tournament,” according to former coach Jose Brasa.

Host India started its campaign with a 5-0 drubbing of South Africa on Wednesday in Bhubaneswar, and is gearing up to play third-ranked Belgium on Sunday and Canada on December 8.

Maintaining consistency will be the key, Brasa notes. “It will be easier for India to win the gold medal in this World Cup in front of its audience than any other medal. India is now a team that could win any gold medal in any major tournament, but at the same time they are not always assured of a podium finish,” Brasa told PTI Bhasha from Liege, Belgium, where he is coaching a club team.

‘In the top group’

“They have to maintain consistency. Of course India is among the best with Australia, Belgium, Holland and let’s not forget Germany. India is in the top group of best teams, but it is also the team that could lose an easy match,” he added.

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Expectations and support from the home crowd can be a boon for the side, believes Brasa. “Playing at home and having the support of the public will definitely help India mitigate this problem of lack of experience of winning major medals but we cannot trust that the impulse of the public will always be the solution,” the Spanish coach said.

‘Great goalkeeper’

Despite the clean sheet against South Africa, he felt India’s performance could have been better. “In the first match, India did well in patches. After scoring two early goals they seemed to relax. Conceding four penalty corners in such an easy match was unbelievable and they should not repeat this against big teams,” he said. “India have great advantage of having a great goalkeeper like P. R. Sreejesh and with him they can aspire to win any match. I am sure they will improve in high pressure matches,” he added.

Positive start: India routed South Africa 5-0 in its first match of the competition. Photo: Biswaranjan Rout

 

India should focus on winning against Belgium to qualify directly for the quarterfinals, Brasa believes. He said, “Having Belgium in the group is not a problem. Naturally, with the new system of competition, it is better to top the group because you play a game less and you arrive more rested to the quarterfinals.”

Noticeable improvement

Brasa noted the improvement of the Indian team in the last decade. “I believe it has improved a lot in last decade and there are two reasons behind it. India has a number of artificial pitches now than 10 years ago. Secondly, during these last 10 years, many good foreign coaches have worked in India, like Roelant Oltmans and Ric Charlesworth, passing their knowledge to players and coaches,” Brasa said.

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“Indians also have emotional connect with hockey. It is the country where hockey moves the largest number of people, where hockey attracts more people to watch matches in the stadium and to watch matches through the TV. India is also the country with the largest budget for hockey,” Brasa said.

The World Cup is a great opportunity for India to showcase its potential as a host to the world, according to Brasa. Under him, India had won a silver medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and a bronze at Guangzhou Asian Games.

He joined as chief coach in May 2009 and was given a contract till the 2010 Asian Games. Hockey India, however, chose not to extend his term.