France and Germany will clash in the final of the Junior Men's Hockey World Cup.
The French made history when they beat Malaysia via the penalty shoot-out in the first semi-final to make their maiden appearance in the final, while the defending champions Germans got the better of the Netherlands 5-3 later on Friday evening, at the Major Dhyan Chand stadium, in Delhi.
France, the tournament’s underdogs, who never went past the pool stages since the tournament’s inception in 1979, showed tremendous fighting spirit as they rallied from a goal down to win 3-1 in the shoot-out, after the teams were locked 1-1 at the end of regulation time.
Their best performance in the tournament hitherto was a seventh-place finish at home in the inaugural edition in 1979.
Germany, who led 2-0 at half-time, overcame a strong second-half fightback from the Dutch to emerge triumphant. The teams had contested the last World Cup final, which was won by Germany.
The Malaysians started off in grand style, scoring as early as the fourth minute through an unmarked Azri Hassan, who had plenty of time to beat Edgar Reynaud in the France goal.
After both sides missed a couple of chances, France, who had stunned European champions Belgium in the quarter-finals, were rewarded for their persistence in the 63rd minute when Jean-Laurent Kieffer deflected the ball into the Malaysian goal to sent their fans into raptures.
In the shoot-out, France scored twice from one-on-one position while the Malaysian could find the back of the net just once.
The Germany-Netherlands match was a thriller all the way. The Germans went ahead from a penalty-corner following their first incursion into Dutch territory and Lukas Windfeder scored with a high drag flick.
They forced another penalty-corner in the 14th minute and Windfeder was again on target, this time with a low flick.
The Dutch tried hard but could not prevent the Germans from crossing over with a 2-0 lead at the breather.
Germany made it 3-0 in the 47th minute after Christopher Ruhr ran solo through the Dutch defence and blasted the ball over the keeper’s head for his eighth goal of the tournament.
But the Dutch were not ready to go down without a fight. They scored twice within a minute, first through Tom Hiebendaal from a penalty-stroke and then Thierry Brinkman.
The two quick goals rattled the Germans and they conceded another in the 60th minute, when Hiebendaal scored from a penalty stroke after being brought down while poised to score.
However, Germans regained composure and scored twice again in the last eight minutes through Max Kapaun and Niklas Wellen to seal their place in the final.
The Netherlands will play Malaysia for the bronze on Sunday.
In the classification matches for 5th to 8th places, Belgium beat Korea 6-1 while Australia got the better of New Zealand 2-1.
Image: The French players celebrate after winning the penalty shoot-out