Defending champions India have been given the favourites tag for the Women's Hockey Asia Cup in Muscat ©Getty Images

India will be eager to win a second consecutive title at the Women's Hockey Asia Cup which will see the top four finishers qualify for the Women's Hockey World Cup in July later this year jointly held by Spain and The Netherlands.

Originally scheduled to take place in Bangkok, the Asia Cup was moved to Oman's capital of Muscat as Thailand relinquished hosting rights due to ongoing struggles with COVID-19.

The defending champions beat China 5-4 in a shootout after a 1-1 draw in normal time in the 2017 edition held in Kakamigahara in Japan and have continued to impress.

Tokyo 2020 saw them achieve a historic fourth place finish which catapulted them into ninth place in the International Hockey Federation (FIH) world rankings.

The two-time champions China pose the biggest threat to the team nicknamed "Nabhvarna" in the eight-team competition as they occupy 10th in the world rankings.

South Korea are the third best team on paper, ranked 12th in the world, and are also the most successful team in the event's history with wins in 1985, 1994 and 1999.

Japan, the 2007 and 2013 winners, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore make up the rest of the field.

Japan are due to take on Singapore and India meet Malaysia on the opening day of the tournament at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex.

The top two teams in both pools will progress to the semi-finals, as well as the World Cup, before the final is scheduled to be contested on January 28.

Former Indian head coach Cedric d'Souza feels that the country's appointment of Dutch Olympian Janneke Schopman at the helm will prove beneficial to win their third title after 2004 and 2017.

"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."