Former India [ Images ] captain Pargat Singh on Saturday said a victory against arch-rivals Pakistan in their opening match of the hockey World Cup on Sunday will boost the morale of the home team.
"The opening match against Pakistan will be crucial for India. Pakistan is a formidable side and we will need to play well to beat them. A win tomorrow will keep the morale of the team high and give the momentum going ionto the tournament," Pargat said.
"We will have to forget the past. If we start with a win, it will have positive impact on our body language. But a loss can sometimes have multiplier effect on the whole morale," the he said.
India have not won a major international title since their 1975 World Cup triumph at Kuala Lumpur. The eight-time Olympic [ Images ] champions slumped to a new low in 2008 when they failed to book a plce in the Beijing [ Images ] Games for the first time in 80 years.
Another former player Jugraj Singh, whose promising career suffered a setback after he met with a car accident few years ago, also agreed that opening the account on a winning note will do a lot of good to the team.
"Winning against Pakistan in the first match will give the boys a lot of confidence," Jugraj said.
While Pargat felt that successful conversion of penalty corners would play a big role, Jugraj was of the opinion that India will have to avoid conceding too short corners.
"I feel (drag-flicker) Sandeep Singh should be our trump card. If he can convert 1-2 goals, I believe that can make a big difference," said Pargat.
Jugraj said having three drag-flickers in the side -- Sandeep, Diwakar Ram and Dhananjay Mahadik -- would give the hosts an upper hand in the 12-team event over others.
"I think the level of fitness of Indian players is pretty good. Besides, I think the chief coach (Jose Brasa) is doing a great job and making perfect use of the rolling substitutions, the drag-flicker said.
On India's chances in the tournament, Pargat said, "Our first aim should be to come in the top six."
Meanwhile, former India striker Gagan Ajit Singh said India has the potential to reach the top, but will need to play really well.
"India has the potential to reach the semi-finals, but we will have to give our best performance."
He was of the view that the controversies in the run-up to the tournament will have no bearing on India's chances.
"I don't think so. The players know the importance of the event and will not let controversies affect their focus," he said, adding the team has a nice blend of youth and experience in it.
"There are quality senior players including skipper Rajpal Singh, Sandeep Singh, Prabhjot Singh, Deepak Thakur and Arjun Halappa in the side who should lead from the front," Gagan said.