Top-eight finish the aim for Indian volleyball team, says Dragan Mihailovic

A top-eight finish for India at the Asian Men's Volleyball Championship will secure a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualification tournament.

Dragan Mihailovic during an Indian volleyball team's training session at the Sports Authority of India south, in Bengaluru.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Newly-appointed Indian men’s volleyball team coach Dragan Mihailovic is focussed on getting the unit ready for the crucial Asian Men's Volleyball Championship, which will be held in Iran in September.

“Our main goal is to get a top-eight finish in the Asian Championship. A top-eight finish will secure a spot for us in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualification tournament. That is very important,”  Mihailovic told Sportstar here.

The vastly experienced Mihailovic, who has won several medals as an assistant coach with the former Yugoslavia national team, and with several top European clubs, stated that the team desperately needs match-practice. “It’s very important to play lots of games against top teams. We plan to compete in a tournament in Ukraine (end August), followed by matches against three very strong Turkish professional clubs in Ankara. We are awaiting the government’s consent for these plans,” Mihailovic said.

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The Serbian, who has been appointed for a period of five months, is impressed with India's talent pool, but there are certain tough challenges ahead. “From the two or three training sessions I’ve had with the boys, I’ve noticed that their biggest drawback is a lack of tactical knowledge. This is because they haven’t got the chance to play many tournaments outside India. They are not in touch with how international volleyball has developed in the last 20 years. Statistics, video analysis, scouting and so on - these aspects are lacking here. But the federation has recruited a top scout from
Europe, which will be of huge help,” he said.

Mihailovic will be also assisted by Pryemyslaw Gaszyoski and Valadimir Radosevic, who will don the roles of team physio and physiotherapist respectively.

Mihailovic has been appointed to the post by the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) – a unique move that the Volleyball Federation of India (VFI) has hailed as a boost to the sport in the country. “The FIVB, VFI and I are working towards a common goal. There are thousands of young guys in India who want to play volleyball. They have the exact body constitution required to play volleyball, and they are desperately waiting for a chance to maximise their potential in order to explode on the world stage. I am sure that this can be achieved,” Mihailovic said.

The Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) has confirmed that the Indian men's team has secured a spot in the main draw of the Asian Men's Volleyball Championship. India was originally scheduled to compete in an Central Asia qualification tournament involving Sri Lanka and Turkmenistan, with the top two sides making the cut. In an email exchange with Sportstar, AVC explained that Turkmenistan flouted competition regulations and was thus barred from competing in the qualification tournament. This has allowed India and Sri Lanka to seal spots in the Asian championship without the necessity of holding a
qualification tournament.