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 March 10, 2002 | 2005 IST

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Germany played positive, exciting hockey

M M Somaya

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 by Domke.

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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