Well aware that it is their last chance to qualify for 2014 FIH World Cup, the Indians cannot afford to let their guards down at any moment as nothing short of a victory in the continental championship can book their ticket to next year's quadrennial event in The Hague, Netherlands.
For the eight-time Olympic champions India and neighbours Pakistan, the Asia Cup is a do-or-die tournament as one of them faces the prospect of missing out on a World Cup berth for the first time since the launch of the tournament in 1971.
Defending champions South Korea, however, can heave a sigh of relief as they recently became the eighth team to qualify for the World Cup after being promoted from first reserves to guaranteed participants, courtesy Argentina's title win in the Pan American continental championship.
India would also be looking to obliterate the memories of their disappointing performance in the last edition of the Asia Cup held in Kuantan, Malaysia in 2009, where they finished a disappointing fifth in a seven-team contest.
Considering the huge demand at stake, it would prove be a Herculean task for India to finish at the top of the podium.
To add to it, the failure to qualify for the World Cup will be a big embarrassment for the Indians who will be desperate to avoid the 2008 Beijing Olympics debacle.
However, the road to the semifinals should not be much of a problem for India. They are placed in a relatively easy Pool B alongside Korea, Bangladesh and Oman while Pakistan, Japan, Malaysia and Chinese-Taipei complete the Pool A line-up.
India are expected to start as overwhelming favourites against Oman at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium here, and a comprehensive win will undoubtedly lift the team's spirit ahead of its tough second pool encounter against title holders Korea on August 26. The Indians will round off their pool engagements against Bangladesh on August 28.


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