Former captain Zafar Iqbal feels it won’t be easy for India to reclaim the World Cup title after a hiatus of 47 years as the hosts are placed in a tough pool alongside Spain, England and Wales.
Zafar said it would be a great achievement after the Tokyo Olympics bronze if the host manages to finish on the podium at the January 13-29 event.
Australia, Belgium, Netherlands, India, Argentina, Germany, New Zealand, England, France, Korea, Malaysia, Spain, South Africa, Japan, Chile and Wales are the 16 teams, who will be vying for the title.
India’s only gold in the World Cup came at the 1975 Kuala Lumpur edition of the tournament under Ajit Pal Singh’s captaincy.
“At the world-level competitions, you never know who will be at the top form. Several teams are very strong such as Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, England, Spain, and India,” Zafar said.
“We will have tough matches in the group stages. We have Spain, England, and Wales, and all are equally strong in their own right.
“I am sure if India finishes on the podium, it will be a great achievement. We have several gutsy players in the team, who always put in their best and who were the heroes of the Tokyo Olympics. So, we hope they can repeat the success once again,” he added.
Iqbal, a member of India’s 1980 Moscow Olympics gold medal-winning side, said the ongoing football World Cup is a testament that any team can cause upsets in a big-ticket sporting event.
“Former world champions Spain, Germany and Brazil have all been eliminated from the football World Cup. You never know which team can get a win over which team in such tournaments.
“It is always unpredictable and men’s Hockey World Cup 2023 is unpredictable as well.” he said.
Iqbal, who also competed in the 1982 men’s Hockey World Cup in Mumbai, said astroturf has changed the game completely and modern-day hockey is all about power.
“During our time, hockey was played on grass. But astroturf started replacing grass in most parts of the world as the ‘80s came around. Even though the 1982 World Cup was played on grass at home, we were unable to perform our best, and were unable to qualify for the semifinals,” he said.
“Now, astroturf has converted hockey into a game of power. The players need to be fitter and require more energy. We had to adapt ourselves to the European style of attacking hockey now.
We had to change with the passage of time. Once astroturf was introduced, we had to adjust according to the turf,” he added.
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