Hosts India have been clubbed together with archrivals Pakistan, Champions Trophy winners and World No 2 Australia and European champions England in Pool B for next year’s Hockey World Cup to be played at New Delhi from February 28 to March 13.
The pool also includes European powerhouse Spain and African champions South Africa, the only lightweight team in the six-team group, the FIH announced on Tuesday.
Defending Champion and World No 1 Germany are in a comparatively weaker pool and will meet the Netherlands, Asian champions
Korea, Champions Challenger I winner New Zealand, Pan Am champions Canada and Argentina.
The top two teams from each pool with qualify for the semi-finals.
India, rebuilding the team for the mega event after the Beijing Olympics debacle, won the bronze medal in the Champions Challenge I at Salta, Argentina over the weekend and will have to play exceptionally well to qualify for the last four stage.
The hosts at 12th are the third lowest ranked team in the fray, going by the latest rankings released on Monday, with only South Africa and Argentina below it in the pecking order at 13th and 14 place.
The World Cup groupings were decided on the basis of Monday’s rankings in which Germany retained the top position with Australia at second.
“It is a very tough pool for India and we can’t even take South Africa lightly because we will be playing them last in the pool.
As per rankings, India will play Australia in their opening pool match and take on Spain, England and Pakistan in that order,” said former India coach Joaquim Carvalho.
The FIH will release the match schedule by the end of this month.