New Delhi, December 1: Impressed with Indian hockey's revival in the last decade, former coach Jose Brasa says the ongoing men's World Cup is the country's best chance to win the trophy and end a 43-year wait.
Hosts India started their campaign with a 5-0 drubbing of South Africa on Wednesday in Bhubaneshwar, and are gearing up to play third ranked Belgium on Sunday and Canada on December 8. Maintaining consistency will be the key though, according to him.
"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.
"They have to maintain consistency. Of course India is amongst 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."
Expectations are very high from the team as it is also playing in front of the home crowd. "Playing at home and having the support of the public will definitely help India to 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," said the Spanish coach.
India had won a silver medal at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games and a bronze at Guangzhou Asian Games under Brasa. He joined as chief coach in May 2009 and was given a contract till the 2010 Asian Games, and Hockey India chose not to extend his term. 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."
"India have great advantage of having a great goalkeeper like PR Sreejesh and with him they can aspire to win any match. I am sure they will improve in high pressure matches," he added.
He also said that India should focus on winning against Belgium to qualify directly for the quarterfinals. "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."
Brasa believed that Indian hockey has improved tremendously in the last 10 years and credit must go to foreign coaches as well. "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," said Brasa.
"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."
He also said that the World Cup is a great opportunity for India to showcase its potential as a host to the world. Brasa said he still misses India and its hockey.