Hockey World Cup: Comeback kings Germany halt Belgian juggernaut | Hockey - Hindustan Times

Hockey World Cup: Comeback kings Germany halt Belgian juggernaut

Jan 29, 2023 11:47 PM IST

Trailing 0-2, Germany rallied to take the lead in a thrilling game before defeating the holders in sudden death after the final went into the shootout

A minute away from the half-time hooter, Belgium, Olympic champions and the undisputed kings of world hockey, were well on their way to defending their World Cup title, having won here at the Kalinga Stadium a little over four years ago.

German players celebrate with trophy after beating Belgium in the 2023 Men's FIH Hockey World Cup final(PTI)
German players celebrate with trophy after beating Belgium in the 2023 Men's FIH Hockey World Cup final(PTI)

With a 2-0 lead, most teams would consider the job done in a high-pressure World Cup final. But not against Germany. Both England and Australia will vouch for that.

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In the quarter-finals against England and semi-finals against Australia, Germany overturned a two-goal deficit in the last two minutes to win and enter the summit clash. The final was no different as Germany rallied from a two-goal deficit again to halt the Belgian juggernaut – they have reached the final of the last two Olympics as well as World Cups – and win their third title, after victories in 2002 and 2006.

In the end, comeback kings and steely Germany won 3-3 (5-4) in sudden death after the regulation time and penalty shootout could not decide the victor. Player-of-the-Match and tournament Niklas Wellen (28th minute), drag-flick ace Gonzalo Peillat (40th) and Mats Grambusch (47th) scored for the winners while Florent van Aubel (9th), Tanguy Cosyns (10th) and Tom Boon (58th) scored for Belgium.

In a repeat of the group phase game which ended in a 2-2 draw, nothing separated the European neighbours even after the penalty shootout (3-3), pushing the contest into sudden death. Belgium’s Cosyns missed his attempt which saw the German players rush to goalkeeper Jean-Paul Danneberg to celebrate an unlikely victory, having last won a major (Olympics, World Cup) at the 2012 London Olympics.

The Grambusch-led Germany have thrived under pressure from the start. Despite not finishing at the top in the group phase, they fought back through the crossovers and were all but out in the last eight and semi-finals. But their never-say-die attitude saw them snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Sunday was no different.

After a couple of initial attacks when Germany also earned two successive penalty corners (PC), it was Belgium who struck, Florent van Aubel putting them ahead in the ninth minute. The holders barely waited another minute before Cosyns made it 2-0. Gauthier Boccard almost made it 3-0, but his drag-flick was saved by Alexander Stadler in the goal.

Germany got a golden opportunity in the 18th minute when they were awarded a penalty stroke after Victor Wegnez blocked a ball with his body. But Tom Grambusch’s scoop to the top left was blocked with the stick by the experienced Vincent Vanasch, who was named Goalkeeper-of-the-Tournament.

Despite the miss and trailing 0-2, Germany never panicked. They slowly built their attacks. They earned a couple of PC chances but wasted them. They increased their attacks, noticing that the Belgians were getting a bit complacent as the half-time hooter approached. Off their fifth PC, Wellen converted to make it 1-2.

Germany got another opportunity nine minutes into the second half when Nicolas de Kerpel got a green card. With Belgium down to 10 men for two minutes, Germany capitalised as drag-flick great Peillat converted to level the contest.

Two minutes into the final quarter, Grambusch made a brilliant run into the striking circle and pushed the ball between Vanasch’s legs from an acute angle, giving Germany the lead for the first time.

The rollercoaster nature of the final continued as Tom Boon converted Belgium’s final PC opportunity with less than two minutes left to make it 3-3 and force the shootout. While Belgium continued with Vanasch, Germany changed their keeper from Stadler to Jean-Paul Danneberg in the shootout.

“We decided when we reached Bhubaneswar that Danneberg would be our keeper during shootouts as he is bigger than me,” said Stadler. Germany also became world No 1 with the triumph.

Netherlands beat Australia 3-1 to clinch the bronze medal. Australia took the lead through Jeremy Haywards (13th min), but the Dutch rallied through Jip Janssen (33rd) and skipper Thierry Brinkman (35th, 40th).

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    From badminton to cricket, Sandip Sikdar writes on many sporting disciplines. He has the experience of working in digital, news agency as well as print organisations. Motorsport remains his first love.

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