The twelve teams in the tournament were divided into two pools of six, with each team initially playing round-robin games within their pool. Following the completion of the round-robin, the top two teams from each pool advance to the semi-finals. All other teams play classification matches to determine the final tournament rankings. The two semi-final winners meet for the gold medal match, while the semi-final losers play in the bronze medal match.
Each of the continental champions from five federations and host received an automatic berth. The European and Oceanian federations received two and one extra quotas respectively based upon the FIH World Rankings at the completion of the 2010 World Cup. In addition to the three teams qualifying through the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, the following twelve teams, shown with final pre-tournament rankings, competed in this tournament.
^2 – South Africa won the African qualifier tournament but gave up their automatic berth on the premise that they should play a qualifier having deemed the African tournament as sub-standard. Eventually they won the Qualification Tournament 3. Instead, Spain was invited as the highest ranked team not already qualified after the conclusion of the continental championships.