Germany defeated Belgium in FIH Hockey World Cup 2023 on Sunday as they won the penalty shootout 5-4. The game was stuck when both teams scored 3 goals each at the end of regulation time. Germany won against the defending champions Belgium after making a brilliant comeback in the final at Bhubaneswar.
Germany won their third world title as they came back after starting slow by conceding 2 goals in the first quarter of the game. Florent Aubel broke the deadlock in the 10th minute and Tanguy Cosyns increased Belgium's lead a few moments later. Just before the hooter of half-time, Niklas Wellen reduced the two-goal deficit. Gonzalo Peillat converted a penalty corner in the third quarter and leveled the scores. In the fourth and final quarter, Germany took the lead as the skipper Mats Grambusch beat the Belgian goalkeeper from the left side. Tom Boon, however, delayed Germany's celebration and utilized a penalty corner in the last 2 minutes of the game. The game then went to a penalty shootout and Germany clinched victory.
This was the third time in the tournament that Germany had won after trailing 0-2 and their mental strength and never-say-die attitude came to the fore again as they denied the Belgians to defend their title. The earlier two matches were against England in the quarterfinals and Australia in the semifinals.
"These three weeks of the World Cup have been the most memorable time of my life.
It is unbelievable," said player of the final as well as the player of the tournament Niklas Wellen of Germany.
Germany joined Australia and Netherlands to have clinched the World Cup title three times. Their earlier triumphs had come in 2002 and 2006.
Only Pakistan have won the event four times. It was third time unlucky for Belgium who had won two major titles, 2018 World Cup and Tokyo Olympics, in penalty shootout. They beat the Netherlands in the 2018 World Cup and won against Australia in Tokyo.
After finishing runners-up in the 2016 Rio Olympics, Belgium won gold medals in the 2018 World Cup and the Tokyo Olympics but finished second best against a resilient German side in a memorable summit clash. Belgium, who had 11 players above 30 and three above 35, had come with the bulk of the team that had won the 2018 World Cup and Tokyo Olympics and they will return home with their heads held high.
A day before the summit clash, head coach Andre Henning had said that Germany have given massive focus on their defence but a two-minute Belgium blitzkrieg left them in daze. Van Aubel gave Belgium the lead in the 10th minute. The ball got a deflection and went up inside the German 'D'. Aubel leapt in the air and smashed it down into the German goal.
Even before the packed crowd barely settled down after the first goal, Cosyns made it 2-0 as he got down on his knees and tapped in a Antoine Kina cross from the left. Germany took a referral for a back stick but the video umpire ruled against them.
Belgium could have been 3-0 up in the first minute of the second quarter but for German goalkeeper Alexander Stadler who brilliantly palmed away an effort from Gauthier Boccard from a penalty corner variation.
Germany had the golden chance to pull one back in the 19th minute but Tom Grambusch wasted a penalty stroke with Vincent Vanasch making a stunning save. Considered the best goalkeeper in the world, the 35-year-old Vanasch correctly predictedGrambusch's powerful shot directed at the right top corner. The ball deflected from Vanasch's stick and hit the post.
The never-say-die Germans reduced the deficit two minutes before the breather as Wellen struck from a penalty corner variation. Trailing 1-2 at half time, Germany had a chance to restore parity in the 40th minute when Hannes Muller's shot was deflected towards the Belgium goal by Marco Mailtkau but an alert Vanasch padded it away to safety. The Germans kept on pressing and got the equaliser in the 41st minute when penalty corner expert Peillat, who had scored a hat-trick in the semifinals, sounded the board to make the scoreline 2-2.
The match then turned on its head as captain Mats Grambusch gave Germany the lead for the first time in the match three minutes into the fourth quarter after an exchange of pass with Thies Prinz. Prinz sent a defence-splitting pass after receiving the ball from Grambusch and it looked like that the German captain would not able to reach to the ball. But Grambusch pulled off a smashing reverse hit which went through the legs of Vanasch into the German goal. It was one of the few occasions when Vanasch finished second best in a duel.
(Inputs from PTI)