Sjoerd Marijne confident India will reach quarters at Tokyo Olympics despite tough pool
India, in September this year, played a five-game away series against Great Britain which ended in a 2-2 draw, and Marijne thinks the experience will come in handy.Updated: Dec 02, 2019 15:45 IST
Last week, the two pools for Women’s hockey for the Tokyo Olympics were announced, with India finding themselves in Pool A, along with the World Champions Netherlands, defending Olympic Champions Great Britain and strong competitors Germany, Ireland and South Africa. India are the 2nd-lowest ranked team in the group, placed at 9th position in FIH Rankings, with only South Africa, who are at the 16th position, above them. Despite the tough competition on their doorstep, India coach Sjoerd Marijne believes his side will make it to the quarterfinals.
Speaking to Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview, Marijne said: “It will be a nice challenge to reach the quarters. I am confident we can make it. There are few teams which are closer to us in rankings - Ireland and South Africa, so we have to make the most of these two games,” he said.
India, in September this year, played a five-game away series against Great Britain which ended in a 2-2 draw, and Marijne thinks the experience will come in handy. “We played five games against Great Britain, so that’s an opposition we know. We have never played Germany,” he said. The Dutchman further believes that his experience coaching the Netherlands team in the past will also help him prepare his side for the challenge against the current World and Pro League Champions.
“The last time we played Netherlands, I was a Dutch coach. So that will be a good challenge for the girls,” he said. “I know the Dutch players well, so there are some areas I can help with. But in the end, the players have to perform. Netherlands are the best team in the world. Against such a team, we have to be fearless and show what we can do. Also, that match alone will not decide whether we make it to quarters or not.”
While India men’s team will be playing the Pro League next year, the women’s team will not be participating in the high-octane tournament. Three of India’s opponents in the Olympic pool - Netherlands, Great Britain and Germany - will be entering the Olympics after playing in the Pro League. Still Marijne is looking at the positives.
“I am always thinking on the positive side and working of a solution. The positive thing about not playing in Pro League is that we can test our bench more. There is no schedule for us. We can decide it all on our own, which can be an advantage,” he said. “If we were playing the Pro League, then we would have already played the Dutch and the Germany and gained experience. So on both sides, there are positive things,” he added.
Still eight months away from the Olympics, the Rani Rampal-led side will be travelling to New Zealand, Spain and England for preparation in the interim. “For me, it is important to keep playing international matches against different opponents and against different opponents,” Marijne said talking about India’s preparation in the run-up to Tokyo 2020.
“Our preparation did not start after the qualification,” the coach added. “We are not going to change too many things because of the Olympics. Our preparation began a long time ago. Yeah, we played in the qualifiers, and played some tournaments, and went on to some tours in the middle. But our end goal was always Olympics,” he signed off.