Former India hockey captain Viren Rasquinha is hopeful that India would qualify for next year's World Cup through the Asia Cup, but sees the route full of pitfalls.
He said that the underperforming drag-flickers will hold the key to India's success.
"Of course, it is possible (to qualify). But I will say it is going to be very tough. It is not going to be easy at all. There are lots of strong teams in the Asia Cup. They need to play much better than what they did at the FIH World League (Round 3)," Rasquinha told PTI in an interview here.
India lost out on a golden chance to qualify for next year's World Cup in Hague, The Netherlands by finishing a lowly sixth in the just-concluded eight-nation FIH World League Round 3 in Rotterdam.
However, skipper Sardar Singh has subsequently expressed confidence that the team would qualify for the game's showpiece event by winning the Asia Cup scheduled in Ipoh, Malaysia from August 24 to September 1.
"They need to play well as a team when it matters and I think our drag-flickers really need to fire, because they did not fire in this tournament. There were three quality drag-flickers in the team and they need to be firing.
"At this level there are no easy matches and every goal counts. There is no real excuse and they need to pull up their socks and get better at the Asia Cup," said Rasquinha, who stays connected with sports as CEO of non-profit sports foundation, Olympic Gold Quest.
"They need to show much more creativity in the Asia Cup. It is going to be very tough because not just Pakistan and Korea, but even teams like China, Japan and Malaysia are going to trouble us.
"It is going to be tough in the Asia Cup as well and we have to win it to qualify (for the World Cup). They have to go there with a lot of self belief.
"The team does have the talent and potential but there is a little gap right now between potential and performance. I would be very disappointed if the raw talent wasn't there. It is there, but it is about putting everything in the right place," Rasquinha said.
The Olympian is quite enamoured with the display of young 17-year-old forward Mandeep Singh.
"I was very impressed with Mandeep Singh, the young 17-year old forward. I think the best part about Mandeep is his positioning sense. He always finds himself in the right position at the right time and that is a hallmark of a quality player," Rasquinha said.
The former half-back further said India need to look no further than Belgium, one-time hockey minnows, on how to improve their game.
"We need to be playing much more. Let's face it, today we need to learn from Australia, Germany and Holland. See Belgium. When I was playing, Belgium was not qualifying for the Olympics," Rasquinha said.
"Belgium came fifth in the Olympics, they won the FIH World League in a tournament where Australia and Holland were there. They beat Australia twice, with amazing improvement. If Belgium can improve, I am sure India can also improve," he said.