Only a massive upheaval in the Oceania Cup championship can deny India a ticket in the 2014 FIH World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands. After finishing No. 2 to Korea in the Asia Cup final at Ipoh on Sunday, India hurt their chances of a direct qualification. Now the former World Cup champions have to qualify as a 'reserve'.
Malaysian men have become the latest team to qualify for the World Cup. The international hockey federation's showpiece event will take place in The Hague from May 31-June 14, 2014 at the 15,000-seater Kyocera Stadium. (India settle for silver in Asia Cup Hockey)
Malaysia's berth at the summer spectacular was guaranteed following Korea's dramatic 4-3 triumph over India in the final of the Asia Cup. Like all continental championships, the big prize on offer at the Asia Cup was direct World Cup qualification to the event winner.
However, with Korea having recently been promoted from first reserves to confirmed World Cup qualifiers thanks to Argentina's victory in the Pan American Cup, the door was opened to the other reserves for the tournament. (Bad umpiring cost us Asia Cup title, say Indian players after loss to Korea)
Last weekend, second reserves Spain were confirmed for the event courtesy Germany's success in European championships, meaning that third reserves Malaysia became the team to benefit from Korea's Asia Cup victory.
Malaysia are the 10th men's team to qualify for the World Cup. Two more places are up for grabs at the upcoming continental championships in Oceania and Africa. India will watch the Oceania Cup to be held in Taranaki, New Zealand from October 30 to November 3 with great interest.
The Oceania Cup, according to the latest fixtures, will be played among Australia, New Zealand, Samoa (world ranking 72) and Papua New Guinea (world ranking 69). The tournament has always been a two-horse race between the Kookaburras and the Black Sticks.
Since Australia (world No. 2) and New Zealand (world No. 3) have already qualified for the World Cup, only in the improbable event of Samoa or Papua New Guinea winning the Oceania Cup will shatter India's dreams. India, ranked 11 in the world, won the World Cup in 1975.
A rather complex process is adopted by the international hockey federation to select the 12 teams for the World Cup. Prior to Sunday's Asia Cup final, 10 teams were already identified. The first seven qualifiers were selected from the top three of the two World League semifinals held in Rotterdam and Johor Bahru (Malaysia).
Germany, Argentina and England qualified from the Johor Bahru leg while Belgium, Australia and Netherlands made it from the Rotterdam leg. But since the Dutch qualify as hosts, New Zealand, the highest (FIH) ranked fourth finisher in the World League semis, became the seventh team to qualify.
That left five more slots to fill. Korea (fourth in Johor Bahru) qualified as first reserve courtesy Argentina's victory in the Pan-American Cup, Spain (fifth in Rotterdam) qualified as second reserve thanks to Germany's win in the European championship. Malaysia, fifth in World League and a third reserve for the World Cup, made the cut after Korea beat India in the Asia Cup final.