Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Aug.5 : The Indian hockey team is ready to showcase their skills and move towards their initial target of making the quarter-finals at the Olympic Games, says coach Roelant Oltmans.
"We're eagerly waiting for Saturday to launch our Olympic campaign. It's time for the boys to deliver results that India expects from them," Oltmans told Asian News International ahead of the opening match against Olympic debutants Ireland.
"For me the Olympic Games are all about winning, nothing else," said Oltmans. "These Indian players have unbelievable skills, but they are not always able to show them at the world stage." "It is time that India teams again get to showcase their hockey skills for the hockey world to see," Oltmans said, encouraging his team to go out and deliver.
Drawn in the tough Group B that also features twice defending champions Germany, 2012 Olympic silver medalists The Netherlands and 2014 World Cup bronze medalists Argentina, India are excited about the new format that sees four teams of either pool advance to the knock-out quarterfinals.
This new format opens up more opportunities for teams outside the top-four rankings, and India at world No.
5 ranking are hopeful of pulling off a surprise in the quarterfinals to make the semifinals for the first time since winning the 1980 Olympic gold medal.
"In the competitive environment, this new format has opened up more possibilities for teams to challenge the top sides," said Oltmans.
"It's an exciting format that could produce a lot of very exciting results. We will always hope to be among the teams that produce these shock results." "Our sights are set of making the quarterfinals, from where every team has a chance of rattling the fancied rivals," said Oltmans.
For now, India focused on the opening outing against Ireland, who made the Olympic grade after posting stunning upsets over three-time champions Pakistan and Malaysia in the Hockey World League last year.
It was the loss at the hands of Ireland that knocked three-time gold medalists Pakistan out of the Olympic competition for the first time since their debut in 1948.
"People forget that Ireland defeated Britain in the European Championships. They are a very good side," Oltmans said. "There is never a reason to take any opponent lightly. Not one person in our team is under-estimating them," said Dutchman Oltmans, who as at the helm of The Netherlands champion teams of mid-1990s when they were on a roll and won both the Olympic and World Cup titles.
Improving the Indian team's fitness has been a key element of foreign coaches as they saw the players virtually being pushed away from the ball by sturdier rivals from Europe and Australia.
"Our fitness levels now are good. We last did fitness tests two days ago and found all boys fitter than the earlier results," said Oltmans, who had to draw on the junior players in the pool to replace two seasoned players who missed the Olympics due to injury.
"We've been hit by injuries to two players, Birender Lakra and Dharamvir Singh, but youngsters have stepped in to fill the positions," said Oltmans.
India has been drawn into the tougher of two pools. India were ranked seventh in the world when the draw was made, while they moved up to the fifth rank after the fine show in the Champions Trophy, where India secured the silver medal.
Germany are looking to complete a golden hat-trick in men's hockey, a feat not achieved since India's winning sequence of six successive gold medals came to an end in 1960 when the lost the final to Pakistan.
Germany shocked world No. 1 Australia in the semifinals at the 2012 London Olympics and went on to defeat Netherlands to successfully defend the title they won at Beijing in 2008.
Reigning World champions Australia lead the field in the other group, where a challenge could come from Belgium and Britain.
Preliminary pools: Group A: Australia, Belgium, Britain, Spain, New Zealand and Brazil. Group B: Germany, The Netherlands, Argentina, India, Canada and Ireland..