Looking to break the 16-year-old Asian Games ‘gold’ jinx, Indian men’s hockey team coach Terry Walsh said that the current lot of players have the “self belief” to come up trumps in the upcoming quadrennial event in Incheon, South Korea.
Walsh said unlike the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the Sardar Singh-led side has the ability to turn the 2010 Guangzhou bronze into a gold at the Asian Games to be held from September 19 to October 4.
“One of the really important area is self belief. That’s very closely linked with confidence and the willingness and ability to play the level without the fear of losing,” Walsh told PTI ahead of the team’s departure for Incheon.
“Confidence is a huge part of performance. Confidence and anxiety are very closely related and that’s something you have to guard. You need to know the difference between being confident and being anxious.
“The problem was that the players had no belief that they could win the gold (at the Commonwealth Games). It’s a process of development, it doesn’t happen overnight. But I think these group of players sincerely believe that if they play to their potential they can beat against Malaysia, Korea, China, Pakistan, Japan and win the title,” the Australian said.
Insisting that India and Korea are the teams to beat in the Asian Games, Walsh said they have improved upon their defensive skills post the World Cup earlier this year.
“Teams are always going to concede late goals, early goals and goals in the middle period. But i think we have improved as a defensive structure. I think we are getting better at knowing on how to play during situations and there comes the business of self belief.
“You got to understand what you are trying to do and believe in your abilities. I think we are growing and leaning those things,” he said.
Walsh feels going by form India’s has a realistic chance of lifting the Asian Games title and earn a direct qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“My view is that we are progressing really well. There is considerable difference in our level of performance from pre-World Cup to post-Commonwealth Games,” the coach assessed.
“If you ask me are we in a position to do well, my answer would yes we are. I an very open and honest about what in think and i think this tournament puts us in a position where we can do extremely well. If we continue to do well then the opportunity to play in the final for the gold medal is in front of us.”
India won the Asian Games only two times — the last time being 1998 edition in Bangkok. In the Incheon Games, India are placed in Pool B along side arch rivals Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka and Oman.
India will open their campaign against minnows Sri Lanka (September 21) and Oman (September 23) before taking on tough teams like Pakistan (September 25) and China (September 27).
“That’s one of the advantages of being a higher ranked team in a competition because you get a chance to build into the tournament. We want to get progressively better as the tournament goes and build towards the semifinals,” Walsh said.