International teams are still afraid of India: Nobbs
New Delhi: The Indian hockey team may not have achieved any significant success in the last two decades, but international teams are still wary of the eight-time Olympic champions, feels the side`s foreign coach Michael Nobbs.
Nobbs, who is overseeing the second phase of the men`s team`s preparatory camp ahead of next month`s Olympic qualifiers here, said India should make the London cut.
"In the last several years (since the 1980 Moscow Olympic gold) India has achieved nothing but still international teams are afraid of us," the Australian said after a training session at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Sunday.
"It (the Olympic qualifiers) is an adventure for all of us, but of course we will feel the pressure. All we are now focussing on is to qualify and I am 90-95 per cent confident we will qualify.
"If something doesn`t go awfully wrong or we don`t have a really bad game or bad umpiring decisions, we should qualify. Our destiny is in our own hands," Nobbs stated.
India, who missed the cut for the 2008 Beijing Games, will fight it out with Canada, France, Poland, Italy and the United States of America in the qualifiers for the London Olympics to be held at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here from February 18-26.
Since taking over the reigns of the team in September last year, Nobbs` main emphasis has always been the fitness of the Indian players and keeping that in mind, he had roped in exercise physiologist David John from Australia
But four and half months down the line, when asked about the players` fitness, Nobbs seemed mighty pleased although he feels there is still a lot of work to be done on that front.
"The fitness of the team has improved by leaps and bounds. In Champions Challenge I tournament we were the fittest side.
"We are slowly getting the benefit of sports science. We are getting stronger day by day but we have to be more strong to keep ball possession," he insisted.
The coach also feels that his wards are at their best when they play attacking hockey but cautioned India`s fragile backline, which tends to crumble under pressure.
"I closely followed the Champions Trophy and have noticed that now-a-days, all the teams play aggressive hockey. So it is an advantage for us because we are naturally talented in playing attacking hockey," Nobbs said.
"But when we play attacking hockey, we tend to fumble in defence. So, we have to take care of our defence also."
Asked how useful long preparatory camps are ahead of important tournaments, Nobbs said, "It is not a question of long camps but structured camps with matches in between.
"Taking the example of Australia. The Australian hockey team`s camp has started on December 14 and will go on till the Olympics."
As part of preparation for the qualifiers, the Indian men`s hockey team will play a Test series against South Africa from January 16-22, while their women`s counterparts will take on Azerbaijan in four Tests from January 15-19.
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