Former Asian Games gold medalist VR Raghunath believes India is a strong contender for a podium finish in the next FIH men's hockey World Cup, which will be held in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela from January 13 to 29. Currently, India is ranked fifth in the world, while Australia is the top-ranked team.
"We are definitely the medal contenders for the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela. We'll have the advantage of the home ground and the home fans and we should cash in on that for sure," Raghunath was quoted as saying by Hockey India.
After a 41-year absence, India won a historic bronze medal in last year's Tokyo Olympics, and the former drag-flicker believes a podium finish in the 2018 extravaganza will be a memorable occasion for the game in the nation.
So far, India has won three World Cup medals: third place in the inaugural event in 1971, silver in 1973, and gold in 1975 in Kuala Lumpur.
"Recently, we got a medal in Tokyo Olympics as well and it would be fantastic to finish this tournament (World Cup) with a medal also. And if they can do that it will be a really memorable moment for the players," Raghunath said.
"I feel Belgium and Australia will be two teams who are very difficult to defeat. "I wish the Indian men's hockey team all the best for the World Cup and hopefully we can all celebrate a podium finish at the end," he said.
Raghunath supports Australia, and incumbent champions Belgium are also candidates for the global crown.