Australia and Germany fought a largely midfield battle wedged between action at the two ends of the field before the world champion came off a 1-0 winner in the FIH Pro League on Saturday. The lone goal of the match came off the faintest of margins and required a review before being awarded.
For the statisticians, there were enough columns to keep them busy barring the one that matters the most – the goals scored. There were short passes and long, grounded shots and aerial, entries into either circle and enough shots at goal from both teams to make one wonder at the scoreline. But it was also a testament to the defending from both Australia and Germany that refused to wither.
That and some incredible goalkeeping from Jean-Paul Danneberg, the youngster who was slotted as the shootout specialist during the World Cup. He got an entire game here and came away with his reputation further enhanced. In fact, Australia could have scored at least half a dozen times if not for the 20-year old obstacle in the goal.
The game started like the previous encounter between the sides during the World Cup semifinal – tentative and cautious. Germany did what it does, getting into position and building up patiently, starting all the way at the back with Tom Grambusch and Gonzalo Peillat all the way up to the forward line.
The Australians, like at the World Cup, did not come out all guns blazing but preferred to test waters, resulting in both sides getting a couple of half-chances early on without any real trouble before Malte Hellwig converted Germany’s second penalty corner, flicking the ball to the top-edge of the corner of the left sideboard-backboard and awarded by the video umpire on referral.
Thereafter, it was all possession and passing, Germany using short passes to break the Australian marking and move ahead from the flanks while the Kookaburras tried to do the same but, as the game wore on, switched to mixing it with aerials and long hits and slaps to move quickly. It almost worked, too, with Lachlan Sharp, Nathan Ephraums and Jacob Anderson getting possession inside the circle but failing to get the final touch in.
The last 10 minutes saw Australia take a page out of the German playbook, attacking relentlessly, earning three penalty corners and throwing everything into getting the equaliser but it just couldn’t find a way past Danneberg.