New Delhi:India were a big disappointment in the last edition of the hockey World Cup in Germany but with home support behind them, the eight-time Olympic champions are confident of a top four finish in the 12-team quadrennial event starting here this month.
As the countdown for the February 28-March 13 mega-event started, India captain Rajpal Singh and his fellow colleagues said the team was working hard to improve upon their 11th place finish in the last edition of the tournament.
"We are eyeing a semifinal spot. From there anything can happen. We are training hard and have adopted some European tactics without leaving our traditional style," Rajpal told reporters at a felicitation function here last night.
"We have the home advantage on our side. A little bit of pressure will be there but it should work as a positive factor."
Downplaying the hype over his side's opening match against arch-rivals Pakistan, Rajpal pinpointed Australia and Germany as the two teams to watch out for in the tournament.
"It is good that India and Pakistan are playing the first match. Apart from Germany, I feel Australia is the toughest side in the tournament. It is good that we will face Australia in the pool and not in the semifinal," he said.
Rajpal also welcomed the presence of three drag-flickers -- Sandeep Singh, Diwakar Ram and Dhananjay Mahadik -- in the side.
"It is for the first time we have three flickers in the team and they are capable of changing the course of any match."
For senior striker Arjun Halappa the World Cup comes with an added motivation to perform at the big stage.
"I don't know whether I will be playing next World Cup or not. I am not sure how long I will carry on playing hockey. So, personally this World Cup is very important for me.
"The tournament is also very important for the future of the players and Indian hockey," said the 29-year-old Bangalorean, who played in the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World but missed the next edition four years later in Germany.
"As a player I think the first match is crucial for us. It will set the tone for the entire tournament. Personally, I feel we should make the semifinals," Halappa said.
"We are working hard on attack as well as defence. The coordination between attackers and defenders is the key to success in modern day hockey," he said.
Senior player Prabhjot Singh said being a senior member of the side there is extra burden on his shoulders.
"There is more responsibility on my shoulders. I have a role to play in the team and I will give my best.
"I have been in the team for a long time and playing the World Cup at home will be a different experience. All the matches are important for us. We will take one match at a time and hope to make it to the semifinals," he said.
Former captain Sandeep Singh was of the view that the World Cup brings with it the biggest opportunity to revive the national game's sagging fortune.
"We will definitely better our last World Cup performance. The entire team is confident about a good result. Not just ours, Indian hockey's future rests highly on this World Cup," the ace drag-flicker said.