Is Belgium over the top?

Roelant Oltmans shares his thoughts ahead of Tokyo

Following the recent European Championships the renowned Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans was asked by to share his thoughts about the Euros with Tokyo just around the corner. In a live “ask me anything” session with hockey coaches from all over the world he did not hold back.

Roelant Oltmans on Tokyo, Belgium, England (Great Britain)
AMSTERDAM – AMSTELVEEN – Rabo EuroHockey Championships 2017, Hockey, Seizoen 2016-2017, 19-08-2017, EK 2017 Amsterdam, Wagener Stadion Amsterdam, Nederland – Spanje 1996 Atlanta, coach Roelant Oltmans

Oltmans on a lack of new development

His first observation following the European Championships was the lack of new developments he witnessed from the stands. The only thing that came to mind was a return to more man-to-man marking instead of zonal. He noticed both the Netherlands as well as the Germans returned to the man-to-man defending with just an occasional switch to zonal. Where the Belgians were the only ones to stick with their zonal defensive structure.

Is Belgium over the top?

Oltmans was disappointed by the Belgian performance at the Euros. As were the Belgians themselves obviously. Not so much by the result but more the way they played. “I’m really curious to see if the Belgians were hiding anything or… they’re over the top?” said Oltmans. “I’m really curious to see what happens in Tokyo because I’m not sure which one it is. (…) But it’s 6 weeks before the Olympics and that makes it difficult to judge because you’re at a certain level in your Olympic preparation. We all know peaking twice in a 6 week period is not easy. (…) But the quality they showed here, is not the quality they need to win their first gold medal at the Olympics.”

Dark horse Germany

“I was pleased by the comeback of Germany,” Oltmans stated. He continued he felt, despite some good players, the on field management was not as strong anymore since Fürste stopped. Bringing back Hauke and Häner in the central axis again, although they also have some weaknesses, for the on field management was a very good decision.

So even though they were no real medal contenders for several years the Germans could very well be the dark horse at the Tokyo Games. However it could also mean after Tokyo they might struggle again. They are vulnerable in their defence and this might become even worse following Tokyo. The penalty corner and goalie are not on the international top level either. But at the same time they have some fantastic strikers.

No medal for Great Britain

In no uncertain terms Oltmans did away with any hopes for an British medal in Tokyo. He sees some development. Especially some young talents making strides. Wallace for example, according to The Hockey Site, should have been named the best player of the recent European Championships by several coaches, but the press decided otherwise. But Oltmas said the gap with the other European top nations is still too big to be considered a medal contender. And that’s without even considering the big teams outside of Europe.

Once Australia finds their rhythm…

 The Aussies have been hiding because of the pandemic in the lead up to Tokyo. So they might need the pool games to find their rhythm again at the highest international level. But once they do, they are for sure among the favourites for the medals. On paper they have a very strong and experienced team.

A podium for India

When Oltmans took the reins in India he designed the road to Tokyo as the time to harvest. Rio came too early, he knew. The objective in Rio was a top 8 finish. All was geared towards a podium in the Games this summer. These days India has adapted to international standards in defense. The team going to the Games has a very strong and experienced defensive set up with Harmanpreet or Birender Lakra among others. Someone like Harmanpreet is very strong in the free role in defence and has the skills to feed the midfield and strikers as well. He will be one of the players to watch.

The Hockey Site

The full 70 minute video with Roelant Oltmans answering questions from fellow coaches from all continents is available at in the Coach Chat archives. Usually the on demand videos from this platform for hockey coaches are “members only”, but for HockeyWorld News the video with Oltmans can be seen in full and on demand at until the start of the Tokyo Games.


About Roelant Oltmans

Roelant Oltmans is one of the living legends as a coach in hockey. Oltmans is one of few who managed to win major gold medals with both men and women. Born in the Netherlands in 1954 he grew into coaching through their envied club system. His first major medal came in 1990 in Sydney where he coached the Dutch women to World Cup gold. In 1998 he did the same with the Dutch men. Two years prior to that he had led these men to gold in the Atlanta Games.

After a brief stint as technical director in Dutch pro football he returned to coaching hockey leading Pakistan to a 5th place in the 2004 Athens Games. Some years later he would be instrumental in the rise to the top again of former hockey giants India. In the memorable HIL years he laid the foundation for the success of current day India. Pre-covid he tried to set up the same in Malaysia but when the pandemic struck he returned to the Netherlands where today he is coaching the top club Kampong, runners up from the last Hoofdklasse season.

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