India are the defending champions, having won this event in 2017. Since then, the Eves have grabbed the headlines with their historic fourth place finish at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – a feat that has rocketed them into 9th place in the FIH World Rankings (WR).
This eight-team competition promises to be a highly competitive affair. The winning team will establish its position as the top team in a hockey-mad area of the world and the top four teams will book their places at the FIH Hockey Women’s World Cup, Spain and the Netherlands 2022.
The teams vying for the top four places alongside India are: China (WR:10), Korea (WR:12), Japan (WR:14), Malaysia (WR:20), Thailand (WR:29), Indonesia (WR:36) and Singapore (WR:37).
Former Head Coach to India men team, Cedric d’Sousa, says this is a very open tournament with the top four ranked teams all capable of winning the competition and any of the eight teams taking a place in the top four.
‘It is such an important tournament because it is a direct qualification to the World Cup. And Oman is a country that loves its hockey so there will be a lot of local interest in the event.’
Assessing the teams participating in Oman, D’Souza says the appointment of Dutch Olympian Janneke Schopman as Head Coach to India is a benefit for the team and will help them build on their success at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
‘Schopman has fantastic credentials,’ says D’Souza, ‘And as this is her first tournament with the team, she will want to start on a winning note. And the India team is brimming with confidence. They have at the training camp and she has been working on combining the natural attacking play of India with a disciplined defence; one that also works hard to support the attack.
‘Also, the strength of an Indian player is their one-on-one skills and she wants the players to use those skills so that on the break they become very dangerous,’
One of the main rivals to the title will be China. The team hasn’t been seen in action for some time and has a number of debutant players in the squad. D’Souza believes that the Chinese team has been rebuilding and could hit the ground running at this tournament.
‘Who knows how they will respond to the pressure,’ he says. ‘They could absolutely relish the challenge.’
For Jude Menezes, the Japanese Head Coach, this is also a chance to take his side to an international competition after several months spent in an isolated training camp. D’Souza, who used to coach Menezes, says the Japanese approach will be to play a high press and then to work hard on turning opportunities to scoring chances.
‘Their effectiveness in the circle is going to be key in this event,’ says D’Souza.
The other team most likely to be pushing for a podium place is Korea. D’Souza says they have a great chance.
’The Koreans have won this event the most times of all nations, India might be a stronger team at the moment but Korea has a real pedigree. They also have some extremely talented players who can really make a difference in the squad. In Cheon Eunbi they probably have the best player at the Asian Games.’
While hockey pundits are likely to predict India, China, Japan and Korea to finish in the top four places, D’Souza has been in the game to long to call anything a certainty.
‘It’s a qualifier and in a qualifier, small nations come with just one job in mind and that is to qualify. In that environment, anything can happen because it is a World Cup.’
The opening day of the Women's Asia Cup sees all eight teams in action. Korea play Indonesia, Japan face Singapore, China take on Thailand and India will play Malaysia.