India have power and skills to take on strong teams: Iqbal

New Delhi, Dec 16 (PTI) Hockey legend Zafar Iqbal believes India have the power and skills to take on strong sides such as Germany, Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands in the World Cup next year in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela.

India are clubbed with England, Spain and Wales in Pool D in the event scheduled to run from January 13 till 29.

Zafar, a member of the 1980 Olympic gold-winning side, said, India, after clinching the historic bronze at the Tokyo Olympics after four decades, would be more confident going into the mega-event on home soil.

“We (Indian team) have now got into the upper level and there is no doubt about that. We have the power and skills to take on (strong teams like) Germany, Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands,” said Zafar during the unveiling of the World Cup 2023 trophy at the Dhyanchand Stadium here on Friday.

“The four-five top teams are equally good. India have made a mark in the Olympics by winning bronze. They have the potential to win the trophy.” He also stressed on the need for cohesion in the side while playing against strong sides.

“Yes, I am sure and confident that India has a chance of a podium finish. The think tank of the Indian team must keep its standard in top gear during the World Cup. The most important thing is unity among players,” said Zafar.

“If the players and the team as a unit feel they are capable of doing it, they will surely reach the podium rather than finishing lower down. We have very good short-corner specialists and field-goal scorers.” Ajitpal Singh, the 1975 World Cup-winning captain, said there were no clear favourites in the World Cup.

“I cannot say at this stage who is the favourite. India has a good chance but they will have to play very well. There are very strong teams in the tournament and I wish the Indian side all the best. They have to put their best foot forward.” Another former hockey player Ashok Kumar said India have the momentum and look a solid side at the moment.

“I am sure India will be among the top three. They have the momentum. The experience of winning a medal at the Olympics is huge and has fuelled the team’s desire. Right from goalkeeper to defenders to mid-fielders and forwards, India has the team and firepower to play top-notch hockey,” said Kumar.

Sports Minister Anurag Thakur felt India is fully “prepared” and “ready” to take on the challenge of the other 15 teams in the tournament.

“I feel India is ready to become world champion once again. We are going to do extremely well not just in the men’s World Cup next year but also at the Paris Olympics in 2024.”

Source: PTI News


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