Australia Tour Is Our Priority To Fine-tune Olympic Preparations, Says Men\'s Team Coach Craig Fulton

Australia tour is our priority to fine-tune Olympic preparations, says Men’s team coach Craig Fulton

New Delhi, March 31 : As the Indian men’s hockey team will leave for their Australia tour on Monday, coach Craig Fulton said that a five-match tour stands as their top priority for fine-tuning their game for the ultimate challenge at the Paris Olympics, scheduled to be held from July 26 to August 11.The tour starts on April 6 with all the matches to be played in Perth, Australia.

 Australia Tour Is Our Priority To Fine-tune Olympic Preparations, Says Men's Tea-TeluguStop.com

“It’s our number one priority right now.I think Australia is ranked fifth in the world at the moment.And it’s going to be a great challenge,” Fulton told IANS on the sidelines of the Hockey India Annual Awards.It will be an interesting tour as India have won very few matches against Australia, competitive or practice matches, in the last decade or so.Though they have had limited success against Australia, the Indian men’s team has been on a since ending a four-decade drought in Tokyo in 2021.

At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the Indian men’s hockey team ended a 41-year medal drought by clinching bronze in a thrilling 5-4 victory over Germany in a nail-biting playoff match.

This remarkable achievement has heightened expectations for the team heading into the Paris Olympics.

But Fulton denied there was pressure to perform on his boys and said that the outcome would take care of itself if the team did a really good job in the next four or five months.”I always talk about an ideal goal and a realistic goal.So the ideal goal is you want to win every tournament that you play.

Otherwise, what’s the point of going? But the realistic goal at the moment is we are ranked fourth in the world.So whatever’s happened before, I have no control over it.I wasn’t part of that.Of course, it was a success.It was exactly where the team needed to be to break through after so many years to do it,” the coach said.

“Now we have a different challenge.We have different players, different squads, different coaching staffs, different philosophy.So that takes time to embed.But the same objectives are there.Where are we right now realistically? We’re fourth in the world.Where have we got to get to? We’ve got to improve.So,I don’t think it’s pressure.I think it’s just focus.We want to improve every day.We’re trying to keep to a process.And the outcome will take care of itself if we do a really good job in the next four or five months of what we have to control,” said the 49-year-old South African.

When queried about specific strategies aimed at fortifying the team’s strength and readiness for the Olympics, Fulton responded, “We’re doing a lot of work on fitness.We will be focusing a lot on the mental side of it coming into Australia and in Australia.

Tactically, we’re still in the same place trying to make improvements, but it’ll always come down to conceding fewer goals and scoring more goals.So that’s what we’re working on.

“That’s the team’s objective.But we need to get fitter and fitter as we go.So, it can’t happen overnight.So, it’s a real process.We’re looking forward to it.”

India are in a tough Pool B along with defending champion Belgium, Australia, and world No.7 and 2016 Rio Olympic gold medallist Argentina, New Zealand and Ireland.

Fulton perceives that while all teams in the pool present formidable challenges for India, the greatest challenge will come within themselves.

“All of them.Our biggest challenge is ourselves.We’ve got to manage ourselves.It doesn’t matter who’s in front of us.We’ve got to prepare properly, and we’ve got to have enough in the tank that we can go back-to-back performances.It’s fine to have one good performance, but the very next day you’ve got to play again.So that’s going to be a challenge,” he said.

“So back-to-back wins is one of the hardest things in sport; quarterfinal, semifinal, final and whatever it is.Pool game, first pool game, second pool game.Because if you don’t do well in the pool, you can’t get to the quarters.

So, we can’t even talk about that until we’ve done the first part.The first game is the most important.

So, for us, it’s all about starting the tournament well,” said the chief coach.

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