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India hockey coach eyes Olympics after Asia Cup win
N.Ananthanarayanan | September 12, 2007 13:18 IST
A transformed home side stunned the Asian Games champions to complete an unbeaten run in the 11-nation event, the final day win capping a remarkable reversal of form after a series of disappointments.
Images: India retain Asia Cup
Carvalho hailed his players' fitness and teamwork after the former world power rattled in 57 goals and conceded just five over seven games, beating South Korea twice and edging out surprise Asiad silver medalists China on the way to glory.
The eight-time Olympic champions failed to win a medal for the first time at the Asian Games in Qatar last year after coming 11th out of 12 teams in the World Cup, sixth at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and last in the Champions Trophy at home.
However, 10,000 people filled the stadium for the final in a rare display of passion for hockey, India's national sport until the team's slump saw cricket take over in the mid 1980s.
"We've a few mantras -- hard running, re-tackling and pressing," Carvalho told Reuters.
"At the same time we don't give our opponents too much respect.
"We do respect them but you do not forget yourself," he said.
"It is believing in ourselves."
The team's performances have steadily improved since Carvalho took over the job in March.
With Olympic qualifiers for the Beijing [Images] Games approaching, India were under pressure to perform after the government struck hockey off its list of main sports eligible for extra funding in the wake of the Asian Games debacle.
Former defender Carvalho has been credited with motivating a team blamed in the past for lacking both unity and fitness.
"I made the boys realise they have the skill and confidence but they have to work hard and can't just depend on basic skills," he said.
However, he urged the players to remain focused to avoid the heartbreak of missing the Olympics [Images] for a first time.
"From the point of view of confidence, this is a big win," he said. "This will hold in good stead for the qualifiers."
India need to win one of three qualifying tournaments being staged early next year to advance to Beijing and the team's preparations for those could receive a boost if the elite Champions Trophy is awarded to India.
Scheduled for Pakistan in December, security concerns could force organisers to shift the tournament to either India or Malaysia, who have been named as alternate venues.
The weekend showing was hugely popular among experts, media and fans, due to renewed attention on hockey following a recent hit Bollywood film "Chak De, India", about a ragtag women's team going to claim Cup glory against all odds.
"My message (to fans) is be a little more patient, give this team some more time," Carvalho said.
"The performances in the last few months have shown the boys have it in them to make it big."