Karachi:Pakistan may be fancying its chances of winning a record fifth title in the upcoming hockey World Cup in New Delhi but former captain Mohammad Saqlain believes the national team's prospects in the 12-nation spectacle are not very bright.
The 18-man Pakistan squad crossed over into India capital through the Wagah border post Monday morning on its way to New Delhi, with its captain Zeeshan Ashraf promising that his team will do well in the World Cup to be played from Feb 28-March 13.
Ashraf, a seasoned defender, said his team will go all out for the title which Pakistan last won back in 1994 in Sydney. Since then Pakistan have failed to reach the semifinals of the quadrennial event.
"We have made top class preparations for the World Cup and I'm very hopeful about my team's chances in the tournament," Zeeshan said before the team's departure. "For us, our first match against India is very important and I'm confident that we will win it to set a platform for a strong showing in the World Cup."
While Zeeshan and his teammates are brimming with confidence, experts have warned the hockey fans back at home not to raise their expectations.
Saqlain said Pakistan had fielded better teams in the last three World Cups and failed to get the desired results.
"In the last three World Cups in 1998, 2002 and 2006 Pakistan played with much better teams. But we never managed to do better than a fifth position. Our team has not entered the World Cup semifinals since 1994. The team that we have sent to India is in many ways weaker," Saqlain told reporters.
"That is why I'm not very optimistic about our chances of winning the World Cup. But I must add that in modern-day hockey anything is possible. I believe that if this team plays to its potential and has its share of luck we might do well in the tournament.
Saqlain said that Pakistan team needs to have match-winners.
"The problem with our team is that there aren't many match-winners. In fact, Sohail Abbas is the only one who can win a match through his individual performance," he said referring to Pakistan's short-corner specialist.
Pakistan will begin the last leg of its preparations by holding a practice session Tuesday at the Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium in New Delhi.
Pakistan will play a couple of practice matches before featuring in its opening match of the World Cup against old rivals India Feb 28.