India have a tough task in retaining the Asia Cup starting in Chennai on Friday and thereby move to Chile, an easier group amongst one of the three Olympic qualification venues in their aim to avoid missing the Beijing Games line up.
Four of the Asian contincental teams - India, Japan, Malaysia and Bangladesh - are eyeing an Asia Cup podium finish to remain in contention for playing in the three Olympic qualification tournaments in Auckland, Santiago (Chile) and Kakamigahara (Japan). The winners of each of these events will travel to Beijing for the Olympics.
India is presently 32 overall points behind Argentina. A win here will help the eight-time Olympic champion wipe the deficit and move to Santiago for the Olympic qualifier event.
Much is at stake for India as a poor performance in the Asia Cup would mean that they have to play in the Olympic qualifying events alongside stronger European teams like Germany, England and France in either New Zealand or in Japan and Argentina will move to Chile.
Departing from the historical system of selection of teams for the world's biggest sporting event once in four years, the Federation Internationale de Hockey, the world body for the game, has introduced ranking systems for the Continental events from this year.