Kolkata: Indian hockey team captain Bharat Chetri today said that their first target would be to make the semifinals at the London Olympics, to be held from July 27 to August 12.
"Germany and the Netherlands are two strong teams in our group. But we can beat any team. Our first target is the semifinals and then we will work ourselves out," said Chetri, the Indian captain. The eight-time Olympic winners have been clubbed alongside reigning champions Germany, Korea, New Zealand, Belgium and Netherlands in pool B and two teams from each pool make the last four.
Heaping praise on physical trainer David John, Chetri said the team's fitness has improved immensely. "We are among the fittest teams now and ready to give a good fight to our foreign opponents. Earlier the fitness level used to be around 40 per cent. Now, it's 90 per cent," said Chetri.
India has been clubbed alongside reigning champions Germany, Korea, New Zealand, Belgium and Netherlands in pool B.
Chetri said that under the Aussie coach Michael Nobbs, the team was playing a more attacking game. "He has changed our defensive style of play and we are playing more attacking games and creating more chances. We are practising hard after seeing the video footage of our opponents. We have strategies which I can't discuss here," said Chetri.
"This is the best available 16. We have not left out anyone. We've full faith on the abilities on our players. If you see our recent matches we are conceding less in penalty corners," said Chetri.
He also praised the Indian drag-flick specialists Sandeep Singh and V R Raghunath and said that they were among the best. The goalkeeper also said captaincy was not an added responsibility for him.
"I'm the last line of defence. It's better for me to watch the whole proceedings from behind. It becomes easier for me so there is nothing new. I know my job," said Chetri.
He is the first goalkeeper from Bengal to be in the Olympics in 32 years since Bir Bahadur Chetri, who stood under the bar in Moscow 1980.
When reminded about it, the Indian goalkeeper said that the side in 1980 had returned with a gold medal for a record eigth time which incidentally was the last occasion when the country had won in the event.
"They had won the gold in Moscow. It's really inspiring. Hope we too achieve something similar. It's an honour to lead the country at the Olympics," said Chetri.
Asked about his idol, the Darjeeling-born Chetri replied with a chuckle, "Bharat Chetri." He said that his favourite goalkeeper was Ashish Ballal, the 1992 Barcelona Olympian.
India open their campaign against the Dutch on July 30.