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September 12, 2000
Walsh sees Asian threat
Harpal Singh Bedi
Australian hockey coach Terry Walsh is of the view that unpredictable Asians - - India, Pakistan and South Korea - - - may spring a surprise at this Olympics.
He says these countries also have medal chances, but admits that his team faces a tough challenge from Holland, Germany and Spain.
Walsh, who took over as national team coach in 1996, is candid that he has a tough job on hand. He says his aim is to see his country win the gold, the only title which has eluded the mighty Australians.
Though the Australian public has very high expectations from their team, Walsh does not want to put pressure on his players.
A versatile striker in his time, Walsh represented Australia when they won a silver at the Montreal Olympics in 1976 and finished fourth at Los Angeles in 1984.
Walsh, who was once approached by the Indian Hockey Federation to take over the Indian team, says: "Fans here want Australia to win the title and that is what we are all striving for.''
India play its second match against the fancied Australians, who finished a poor fifth in the Champions Trophy in Sydney in May.
Walsh is also unperturbed by the fact that India had beaten his side in the recent four-nation tourney.
''The Olympics is a different ball game. In a pressure cooker-like situation you need players who can withstand the pressure and I think we have such players,'' Walsh feels. He rates his half-line of Paul Gaudoin, Brent Livemore, Stephen Holt as the world's best.
However, the Australians are fully aware that they don't have a very incisive forward line and depend heavily on mid-fielder Michael Brennan.
Australian vice-captain Jay Stacy, who will be playing his fourth and last Olympics exudes confidence that his team will claim gold this time.
''We have learnt from our mistakes and we are improving,'' he adds.
The Indian team, which had a strenuous 90-minute workout this morning, is scheduled to play a friendly against Canada in floodlit conditions on Tuesday.
''We are confident of doing well and we are preparing according to plans,'' Indian coach V Bhaskaran said after the workout.
His deputy Harendra Singh added: ''The players are fit. The morale is high and we are capable of a good showing.''
Mail Sports Editor
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