Ipoh, 23 August: The ignominy of missing out on a World Cup berth looming large over its head, an under-pressure Indian men’s hockey team would be hoping to open its campaign in the ninth Asia Cup with a morale-boosting win over minnows Oman in Pool B, here tomorrow.
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. 
They were promoted from first reserves to guaranteed participants, courtesy Argentina’s title win in the Pan American continental championship.
Meanwhile, Indian hockey team were dealt a severe blow ahead of their opening Asia Cup group league encounter against minnows Oman after skipper Sardar Singh was declared unfit as he is recovering from viral fever.     pti