Asian Olympic Qualifiers: Jude Menezes, the Indian brain behind Japan’s brilliant display against Germany

A Dutch woman is guiding the Indian women's hockey team in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in Ranchi, an Indian hand is behind Japan's success

Ranchi, Jan 14 (IANS) While a Dutch woman is guiding the Indian women’s hockey team in the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers in Ranchi, an Indian hand is behind Japan’s success here. Former India men’s team goalkeeper Jude Menezes, who represented the country in the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and is settled in New Zealand in 2002, was the tactical acumen behind Japan’s fighting 1-1 draw with Germany in a key league match at the Marang

Gomke Jaipal Singh Astro-Turf Hockey Stadium on Sunday.

Japan absorbed the tremendous pressure exerted by Germany in the first half, sat back in their half and defended superbly before going on the afterburner as they pinned Germany in their half and created many chances. They equalised via a penalty corner and nearly scored the winner before the Germans survived by the skin of their teeth.

On Sunday, Menezes gave credit to his forwards and midfielders for their untiring effort in defence which helped them defang the German attack.

“OPur defence started from our press, so our forwards, the amount of running that they did, all the defending stuff from the first line, and I would credit the whole team for the work that they did,” Menezes said after the match.

“But the forwards, the midfielders did a hell of a lot of running and in the defence cleaned up in the end. So that’s a collective effort,” he added.

The Mumbai-born Menezes, who said he had never imagined he would be going all the way to Japan for his first role as head coach of a national team, moved to New Zealand in 2002 and worked full-time in the health and fitness industry. He also coached hockey teams and since 2014 has been a full-time hockey coach. He was the goalkeeper’s coach of the New Zealand Women’s team from 2015 to 2018 and was also assistant coach of the NZ men’s U-21 team and the senior National team.

Very happy with Sunday’s result, the 52-year-old Menezes who took over in November 2021 as head coach of Japan women’s team, said it was a big point for his team to snatch from Germany.

“It’s a big point, you know, So now the next game (against Chile in the four-team Pool A) is virtually a knockout for us. So we’re gonna treat it that way. And yeah, it’s a big result for us and confidence-wise as well. Just being able to tie with World #5, I think that’s a big result for us. Just being able to tie with World No. 5, I think that’s a big result for us,” said Menezes.

Menezes said he could make the late switch in tactics because he knew his players were supremely fit and could sustain that tempo.

“I know the capability of my team because we’re very fit. We do our testing and I know our scores are very high on the yo-yo test. So I know that we can step up another gear after we go down a goal. had to do something. So we changed the intensity and we are more aggressive. So that’s why when we equalised, I didn’t want to change the tempo, I wanted to keep that momentum going. So I kept pressing and kept being aggressive,” said Menezes.

Menezes said qualifying for the Paris Olympic Games would be a massive boost for Japan’s hockey programme. Japan had played in the Tokyo Olympic Games but as hosts. They did win the Asian Games in 2018 but they played it with a free mind as they were already assured of their berth.

“It will be huge for our program. It’s massive for the future of hockey in Japan, so it’s really important that we qualify and it’ll give hockey a huge boost in Japan if we get through to the Olympic Games,” said Meneses.


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