New Delhi, Jun 24 (PTI) Wondering about the unrealistic expectations from the Indian women's hockey team, chief coach Sjoerd Marijne on Thursday said the realistic target for them is to reach the quarterfinals at the Tokyo Olympics and anything less than that would be a big let down.
The team will compete in its second consecutive Olympics in Tokyo.
India's best-ever finish at the Summer Games was a fourth-place finish at the 1980 Moscow Games and Marijne believes the current team has the potential to match it if the players play according to their strength.
'The expectations in India are very high. If you are realistic, only two countries are lower ranked than us and that's Japan and South Africa. So, I don't know from where these expectations are based on,' Marijne said at a virtual media conference.
'I think probably because we did good in the past in the last four years, but still we have to be realistic. We are focusing on reaching the quarterfinals and that's realistic and from there anything can happen.' The Dutch coach said if they fail to reach the quarterfinals, it would be a big disappointment for the players, who have made a lot of sacrifices to realise their dreams in these difficult times.
'...but for me the most important is our performances and I know this is easier. I just want to see that this team reaches its potential and my job is to help the team reach its potential.
'If we play every pool match to our potential and fail to reach quarters I am still happy. But I think playing by potential will help us reaching the quarterfinals and even more,' he said.
'...if I am disappointed, I will be disappointed for the girls, because I know every day how hard they have worked. They miss their families, always being away. I know how much effort they have put in this process,' he added.
Indian are clubbed along side Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Netherlands and South Africa in Group A, while Group B consists of Argentina, Australia, China, hosts Japan, New Zealand and Spain.
Out of the 12 teams in fray, only two sides -- Japan (13) and South Africa (16) are below India (10) in the world rankings. Four teams from each group will progress to the quarterfinals.
But India's chief coach Marijne is least bothered about rankings, insisting if the Indian women can utilise their skills, nothing is impossible in the upcoming Games.
'Rankings do matter but for us it's about match by match and not rankings. And of course we know that Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain and Ireland are ranked higher, but we don't go with the message like that.
'We are just going to show what we are capable of playing against the best and that's a very big challenge. That's how we're going to approach every match, and the other teams have to read us, the pressure is with them,' he said.
'...our strength is of course Indian skills. I believe that the culture of a country, you really have to respect it. And we will never be Netherlands, we will never be Australia, but it's not necessarily, we learned from those countries, but we have our own skills. We have fast hands and speed and that is something which we have added in the last few years.
'We start against the best like Germany and Great Britain. So, if we reach the quarterfinals I'm happy to play any country, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, China, whatever in the quarterfinals. We have good weapons but the challenge is execution at the right moment. We just go to show that we are better than the previous Olympics.' Marijne said he is satisfied with the 16-member team he has handpicked for the Olympics, which is a mixture of youth and experience.
Asked about the reason behind naming two vice-captains in Deep Grace Ekka and Savita, who will be assisting skipper Rani Rampal, the coach said: 'I don't think it's only about Rani and Savita. They have a big role in shaping this team and those two girls did that really well. And besides them, we are trying to make the leadership group bigger and bigger.' 'We have worked on the leadership group very hard with Rani and Savita but that leadership group is much wider and all the players have a different character. The bigger that leadership group is the more responsibility they are taking.' The Indian women's team will open its Olympic campaign against Netherlands on July 24. PTI SSC SSC AT AT