ISLAMABAD-Former Olympian Shahnaz Sheikh believes Pakistan's victory in the first match of the World Hockey League (WHL) semi-final against Netherlands would be vital for moving ahead in the tournament.

Pakistan would open their WHL campaign against Netherlands on June 15, then will play Canada on June 16, India on June 18 and Scotland on June 20. The former coach said Pakistan's first match against Netherlands would be very crucial in building-up the team's confidence level in the whole tournament. "Pakistan should play attacking hockey in the tournament and should not get under-pressure," he said.

Sheikh said this time it would be a bit easier for 13th-ranked Pakistan team to secure a place in the World Cup as the number of participating teams has been increased to 16. He said Pakistan failed to qualify in the 2014 edition as the number of teams in the marquee event was 12. "This time Pakistan has very bright chances to qualify for the mega event," he said.

Five continental tournament champions, hosts India and top ten ranked teams from Hockey WHL Round 2 will qualify for the World Cup. Twenty teams will be seen in action in the two legs of HWL Round 2, one next month in London and the second in Johannesburg in July. "I think continental champions and India will also be among top five teams in each leg. So, most probably top eight teams from each of the ten-team HWL Round 2 will qualify for the World Cup," he added. He said that Asia Cup later this year would also offer a chance to qualify for the World Cup but for Pakistan that would be difficult. Responding to a question, Sheikh said Pakistan would easily beat India in the WHL match as Pakistan team is young but better then the arch-rivals.