Curtain came down on the 35th Hockey Champions Trophy at Bhubaneswar after Germany emerged victorious by beating Pakistan 2-0 in an engaging final at the jam-packed Kalinga stadium on Sunday. By their victory, the Germans have ended Australia’s lengthy reign as Champions Trophy holders. After Germany last won the coveted trophy in 2007 at Kuala Lumpur, Australia has not relinquished the possession of the Champions Trophy since 2008. For Germans therefore, it was fitting to get back the trophy that Australians took in 2008, when they beat Spain 4-1 in Rotterdam. On Sunday, Germany played with an upper hand and didn’t allow Pakistan many scoring chances. There were goals from Christopher Wesley in 18th minute and Florian Fuchs in the 56th, which helped Germany lift the Champions Trophy for the 10th time. The smartly organized event at the East-Indian city received an enthusiastic response from cultured hockey fans, who responded to every fine nuance of the game with appreciative applause. They would have been happier to see India play here in the final but the home side couldn’t make the grade. Incidentally, India finished fourth after losing 1-2 against Australia, just before the final between Germany and Pakistan.
The Germans got off to an attacking start and elicited a penalty corner in the first minute. However, that chance couldn’t be converted as Christopher Ruhr sent his flick off the target. Regardless, Germany continued to control the first quarter and could have gone into the lead, when Ruhr was a fraction of second slow in getting a touch to a sizzling cross. In 13th minute, Florian Fuchs broke into a hard solitary run before finding himself in front of the goal but the open chance was wasted when Fuchs’ powerful backhand shot went just wide of the right post. Germany earned another penalty corner soon afterwards but this time a well-executed flick by skipper Moritz Fuerste was saved by Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Butt. The first quarter score remained 0-0.
Germany continued to play with tact and earned a penalty corner in the opening minute of the second quarter but that, too, was wasted. However, they didn’t have to wait too long for their goal. In 18th minute, Jonas Monoll found an unmarked Wesley near the D and sent the ball to him. Wesley didn’t falter as he struck powerfully from close range to make it 1-0 for Germany. Germany kept the ball in Pakistan’s half for most part of the second quarter and ended the period with a 1-0 lead.
As the third quarter began, Pakistan found their foothold and made some enterprising moves on the German goal. However, the rock-solid German defense came in their way. Germany also pressurized Pakistan with some counter-attacks but the quarter remained goalless with the Germans holding on to their 1-0 lead. In the fourth quarter, the pace of the game quickened. Germany earned a penalty corner, which the Pakistanis protested but after the referral, the corner was allowed. However, Germany wasted the opportunity and soon earned another penalty corner in the 52nd minute. This time Fuerste’s strike was nicely saved by Pakistan goalkeeper. With three minutes left in the match, Pakistan’s hopes came crashing down, when Florian Fuchs made a strong hit from the top of the circle after receiving a scooped ball from Moritz Furste. Fuchs’ shot left no chance for Butt and Germany went ahead 2-0. At the stroke of finish, Pakistan earned a penalty corner but they couldn’t convert it.
For the third and fourth places, India played Australia earlier. For the first time in many years, India were taking on Australia with a superior win ratio in a calendar year. Last month, India had emerged victorious in their tour down under and that would have given them some confidence ahead of the match. But it is not for nothing that the Australians are world champions and they showed their hockey superiority with a 2-1 win against India to take the bronze with India taking the fourth spot in the tournament. But after their loss against Pakistan on Saturday, the Indians looked like the ghosts of their true selves and lacked focus for the entire period. With the defeat against Pakistan playing in their minds, India approached the game with heavy hearts. They did make a few good moves but there was no strategy as they lost the ball possession frequently. Poor finishing was another reason that added to India’s woes. Dharamvir Singh, who had been sending accurate crosses from the right flank all through the tournament, looked completely off-color as did most of his colleagues. On the contrary, an energetic Australian side made the most of India’s submissive play. Australia moved well and scored twice through field goals. The first came in the 18th minute from captain Eddie Ockenden and the other in the 52nd minute, when Matt Gohdes ran down and banged the board. India managed to cut down Australia’s victory margin, when Lalit Upadhyay found the target in the 42nd minute.