With little more than a month to go for the hockey Olympic qualifiers, former captain Rajpal Singh on Sunday expressed confidence that erstwhile champions India will make it to the London Games.
Eight-time champions India, who missed cut for the 2008 Beijing Games, will fight it out with with Canada, France, Poland, Italy and the United States of America in the qualifiers for the London Olympics to be held at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here from February 18-26.
"I am 100 per cent sure that the team will qualify for the Olympics in the upcoming Qualification Tournament," said Rajpal.
"It is just 40 days to go for the qualifications and we are completely focused both on and off the field. We are not going to get distracted by anything at all till we achieve our goal," he added.
"Right now our only goal is to concentrate on the qualifiers and that is what we are doing. We are not even thinking of Olympics at the moment."
The core group of men's national hockey team arrived here yesterday from Bangalore for the second phase of the preparatory camp for the Olympic qualifiers.
The probables were joined by chief coach Michael Nobbs and exercise physiologist David John, who also arrived in the capital after a short break in Australia.
During the course of the camp, India will play a five-Test series against South Africa which will also serve as the selection trials for the Olympic qualifiers.
The upcoming qualifiers will be Indian team's last chance to book its London ticket and Rajpal said although the pressure is huge, the players are mentally ready for the challenge.
"Every individual have to deal with the pressure and we are all ready to do that. We know that we cannot lose our concentration even once while preparing for the tournament and in those 70 minutes that we would be on the field," Rajpal said.
"Even if we lose focus once during those 70 minutes, we know it can be disastrous," the experienced forward added on the sidelines of the inauguration of an indoor 10m rifle shooting range, here.
Rajpal agreed that off late the team had faltered at the final hurdle on number of occasion but assured of better show in the qualifiers.
"Yes, we have faltered at final moments but we are working on it."
Rajpal, who had said a few months back that fitness was a major concern for the team, today admitted that with the help of Australian trainer (John), the players have improved a lot.
"Fitness plays a big role while playing on the astroturfs. After Europeans and Australians started playing on the astroturfs, it has become a power game and fitness has to be at its best. With the Australian trainer we have benefited a lot," he said.
He also admitted that coach Michael Nobbs has helped the team in improving its goal scoring abilities.
"After Nobbs has come, we have started playing attacking hockey. It is typically a mixture of Indian and Australian style of hockey.
"It is now a question of putting our training into optimum use and peak at the right time," Rajpal said.
He also side-stepped questions on the beleaguered World Series Hockey, saying, "We have not decided whether we would play in the World Series Hockey, which is scheduled just after the qualifiers."