Forty seconds was all it took for Germany to score twice and first equal, then knock out England from the World Cup on Wednesday in shootouts, reiterating its credentials as one of the most dangerous teams in world hockey and making its first semifinal since finishing runner-up in 2010.
England led 2-0 with three minutes to go but the teams finished level on 2-2 before Jean-Paul Danneberg, coming in as substitute goalkeeper in his first game at the competition, made the two most crucial saves of his as yet brief seven-match international career while Germany converted all four of its attempts to go through. It was a result that looked highly unlikely all through the game that England dominated with a defensive masterclass and iron-clad control of the midfield.
For most of the first half, the game was restricted to the midfield as the teams played percentage hockey, seeking to test the opponent and making only occasional forays into each other’s circles. One of those in the 11th minute saw Stuart Rushmere being put through at the backline and, juggling in the air with impressive 3D skills, transferred the ball to Zachary Wallace who slapped it into the net.
Germany was hardly given any space to move in a closed game and with its key players including Christopher Ruhr, Niklas Wellen and Marco Miltkau hemmed in all the time, the team lacked its usual pace. It improved in the second quarter and, despite England’s solid defence, managed to earn two penalty corners but Gonzalo Peillat failed to score.
The game picked pace post break as Germany shifted to shorter and more diagonal passes to break through but England upped its attack as well to earn back-to-back PCs and go 2-0 up two minutes after resumption. With five and half minutes to go, German coach Andre Henning took out the goalkeeper in search of a goal and was rewarded with a penalty stroke in the 56th minute that incredibly saw Ruhr hit the crossbar.
Luck seemed to be favouring England but that was before Wallace picked up a card a minute later. Reduced to nine vs 11 outfield players, England first saw Mats Grambusch reduce the margin then concede another stroke, his brother Tom making no mistake this time around. Germany even earned a PC in the last 28 seconds but they had to wait till after the shootout to celebrate.
Later, the Dutch took time to get going with a nippy Korea pushing them hard but took control as the match wore on, winning 5-1 in search of their fourth straight World Cup medal. The Germans will next take on Australia in the semifinals in a repeat of their clash at the Tokyo Olympics, hoping to avenge their defeat 18 months ago and make their first final in 13 years while the Dutch will play Belgium in a replay of last edition’s title clash.