Indian hockey chief coach Joaquim Carvalho feels his team is on the right track to seal an Olympic berth in the qualifying event in Chile next month.
"We are moving in the right direction. The boys are hungry to qualify for the Olympics. One or two slots are up for grabs. I am looking at the best options. The boys have impressed in the test series against Belgium," he told PTI before the team's departure for Perth in Australia for training.
The team will also play matches against the Western Australian side and the Chinese national squad.
He said the final squad for the Chile event, to be held from March 1 to 9, would be chosen after returning from Australia.
"We will have a final camp in Bangalore from where we are planning to leave for Chile. The final 18-member squad will be decided at the Bangalore camp. The remaining six from 24 probables (now on the tour to Australia) will be stand byes," he said.
Carvalho, who has been at the helm for over 10 months, also scotched at speculations that his appointment was a stop gap arrangement and he would quit if his team failed to qualify for the Olympics.
Under Carvalho, the Indians have won bronze in Sultan Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia and Champions Challenge in Boom, gold in the Asia Cup here in September last year, and fashioning a 3-1 series win over Belgium in Chennai.
In the three tournaments in 2007, India won 14 matches, lost four and scored 83 goals while yielding 24. Prabhjot Singh emerged top Indian goal scorer with 20 goals followed by V Ramachandra Raghunath (11), Shivendra Singh (8), Rajpal Singh (8) and Tushar Khandekar (6).
Carvalho said IHF President K P S Gill has approved the appointment of Mervyn Fernandez as manager for the Australian tour in place of R K Shetty.
"Fernandez has helped give some inputs on the junior talent and was an observer here for the last two matches against Belgium. He will be of great help to the team on the tour," he said.
On the recent test series against Belgium, Carvalho said the probables had gelled themselves well as a team. The series had given exposure to the boys, particularly the youngsters, who gained the experience of playing international matches.
"I am sure it has helped lift their confidence levels," he said
Carvalho was also happy over how the boys played with intensity in the last five minutes in their last match.
He said Olympian M M Somaya, IHF's Technical Director, could not be present during the test series against Belgium, "but he has been in touch with me over phone on a daily basis, giving advice on matters concerning training or competitions."
"Somaya's presence in the Chile Olympic Qualifier would help in the team's planning and strategies," he added.