It’s not even been a month since Roelant Oltmans was made the chief coach of the Malaysian Men’s Hockey team. The Dutchman, who coached Pakistan till the Asian games, now finds himself in the hot-seat in Malaysia, a team that’s constantly punched about it’s weight in world hockey.
In an interview with The Dragflick, Roelant Oltmans analyses his team’s strengths and talks about their chances at the World Cup.
The DragFlick: You’ve coached the three big Asian countries – India, Pakistan and Malaysia. How have your experiences been and what’re your observations?
Roelant Oltmans: well, one thing I can say is that the players from all these countries are receptive to new ideas. But I don’t want to talk too much about India and Pakistan. I can talk about Malaysia because that’s where I am working now.
DF: You’ve barely got a month to prepare with Malaysia. Is the team ready?
RO: I’ve not been here for very long time but I am sure the players are ready for it. They have worked very hard for it.
They’ve done well at the Asian Games, Asian Champions Trophy and also against New Zealand before coming here, especially in the last match. So, yes, we are looking forward to our first match
DF: You’re probably in the toughest groups…
RO: Yes, it’s not an easy group to survive. We understand our group, where we have Holland, Germany and Pakistan – all former winners of the World Cup.
For us, the main target is to go to the next round – that’s the step number one, and then we will see game-by-game.
DF: What’s the mood in the team and what are expectations among the fans?
RO: In Malaysia, everyone understands how tough this group is. What people expect most is that it will be between Malaysia and Pakistan to join the two European teams in the next round. That’s the expectation that’s there.
I am afraid my target is not to achieve something special at the World Cup. I just want to make sure they qualify for the Tokyo Olympics so we can work for a little longer but, of course, to make that happen, we have to set the momentum from now.
In that context, this is an important tournament. We want to survive this group of death. All of us know that, the players are realistic about this as well.
DF: How do you analyse your team?
RO: For me, it’s always about team work. You play according to a structure. We will try to play some attacking hockey and score some goals because that equation (goal difference) might come into play.
But we will start with organising our defence because it is important to have a well-organised back line against the top teams of the world.
We have an experienced goalkeeper, we have a nice penalty corner taker in Razie Rahim – he is one of the best in the world… it’s quite a balanced team in the sense that there are experienced players, then there’s the middle group and some young ones.
DF: What was the one thing about Malaysia that impressed you when you were in charge of the rival teams?
RO: I think they were very strong in their counterattacks. They are very fast and create goal-scoring opportunities. That’s one thing about them that struck me the most.
DF: In the short period you’ve had, what are the aspects you have worked on?
RO: Most important thing for me, something that we’ve tried to do, is to get the structure of play right.
I felt before there was too much emphasis on individualism than team work. That is one thing we emphasised on. Then we had to improve the physical fitness because compared to other countries in the world, we weren’t up to the level which is required.
DF: Do you think consistency is an issue with the team?
RO: Malaysia have been winning a couple of important matches here and there but at the same time, they never won anything.
Records are set by winning medals. We don’t expect to win it in this World Cup but yes the team is not really consistent.
They beat India in the semi-final of the Asian Games and were leading the final by a big margin but were still not able to win the game. So that says something. That’s what we are working on – to have consistent performances.
DF: Your pick for the World Cup?
RO: The Hockey World Cup 2018 is going to be a very open tournament. In fact, in my opinion this will be the most open World Cup ever in terms of favourites.
Australia are always strong, Argentina look very good…India can surprise any team on their day. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s an all-European final.