Germans floor the Dutch
Indervir Grewal in Bhubaneswar
TWO very different rivalries, set apart by thousands of miles, saw two distinct battles fought out on the same day in Bhubaneswar. First up on the blue turf were European big guns Germany and Netherlands. Against all expectations, the neighbours ending up adding another thrilling chapter to their age-old rivalry. It was not expected to be a German night, the two-time champions not being at their best in the last few years, thus slipping to sixth in the world rankings.
The Dutch, two places above Germany, were the fancied side on Wednesday. However, a draw was a more plausible prediction. Neither team likes to lose this encounter. And history has shown that despite the difference in rankings and form, the weaker team has found a way to play out a draw.
The match seemed heading that way again, until Germany suddenly found their scoring touch, eight minutes before the final hooter. The first half had the Netherlands running all over Germany. The all-black Germans were pressed into making uncharacteristic mistakes. They gave away too many balls in the midfield. The Netherlands counterattacked but it took them 13 minutes to take the lead. Valentin Verga’s cross from inside the circle went in off German defender Lukas Windfeder’s stick.
The determined Germans, though, fought back and almost got the equaliser in the last seconds of the first quarter. A penalty corner variation saw a strike by the pusher hit the near post.
The Dutch enjoyed even more dominance in the second quarter but looked a little slow in the circle, missing many chances. That, in the end, proved to be the difference. Germany won another penalty corner, again seconds before a break. They went for the same variation and it worked this time, Mathias Muller getting the crucial deflection despite being off-balance.