Germany played positive, exciting hockey
M M Somaya
The final of World Cup 2002 promised to be a contest between the extravagant flair of Australia
and the dour and disciplined play of Germany. As it turned out, Germany not only contained the
enterprise of Australia but also dished out scintillating fare
of their own to make the final a fast and exciting affair.
Their win, by the odd goal in three, saw them being
crowned World Cup champions for the first time ever. Florian
Kunz, fittingly named player of the final, led the German team
by example, and it was his presence in the middle of the defence
that restricted Australia to the rare look-in at goal.
Kunz, along with Christian Mayerhofer, on the left, and
Philipp Crone, on the right, built a strong wall in defence that
did not give Australia's forwards the time and space to strike
at goal. His impeccable sweep clearances then allowed Michel
Bjorn, Christoph Bechmann and Oliver Domke the freedom to run
at Australia's defence.
The pace of the counter attacks were so quick that
Australia did not have enough time to recover in defence and
make the tackles.
It was left to goalkeeper Lachlan Dreher to effect some
superb saves so that Germany did not run away with the game.
His anticipation in cutting off crosses made from close range was
immaculate, and this thwarted Germany on numerous occasions
after they had reached handshaking range.
Australia did a fair bit of attacking on their own and
did not hesitate to push their defenders too into attack. The move by full-back Bevan George in the first half took
Germany by surprise and nearly gave Australia the lead. In the
second half, Germany used this ploy, and wing half Philipp Crone
swooped into the circle from an overlap on the right and his
try was saved by Dreher in goal.
Michel Green, the veteran mid-fielder, made an identical
run from the same flank and once again a desperate save by
Dreher averted danger for Australia. The manner in which both
teams pushed defenders suddenly into attacking roles ensured
the element of surprise and the benefit of numbers in attack.
Australia took the lead off their second penalty-corner,
with Matthew Wells selling a dummy and the ball being slipped
to the left for Troy Elder to push home. Elder was also
resolute in defence on the left and his consistency in defence
as well as his conversion of penalty-corners earned for him
the 'Player of the Tournament' award.
On the stroke of half-time, Florian Kunz restored parity
from Germany's first penalty-corner award. He deceived
goalkeeper Dreher with a strong scoop to the left corner.
The importance and the timing of the goal was extremely
critical and was a major influence on the final outcome of the
match. The psychological victory of going into half-time after
restoring parity gave Germany the edge in second half after an
equally contested first session.
It could have been the reason that Australia always
played second fiddle in the second half. Three unforced errors
by their defenders in this session gave Germany possession of
the ball in dangerous positions and off one of these they were
made to pay dearly. Sascha Reinelt, bursting through the left from the
turnover and sweeping across the goal-mouth for a diving
Oliver Domke to push home from close. It was one fluid motion
from the 25-yard line to the ultimate strike at goal
Coming late in the game, it was to prove the World Cup
winner and the knock-out punch for Australia, who never again
came close to scoring.
For Australia, it was their only loss in
the tournament and one they could pin on due to lack of
discipline in defence.
The winners of the Champions Trophy in November lived up
to their billing as favourites with a fighting performance
right through the gruelling nine matches of the World Cup
never losing sight of the end goal.
Germany showed the world that they can also win by
playing positive, exciting hockey.
M M Somaya was a member of the Indian hockey team at the Olympics of 1980, '84 and '88.
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