HWL Finals: India eyes redemption against depleted Germany

Out of the race and with its shot at the title gone, there is little more than pride at stake for host India when it takes on a depleted Germany in the play-off for its second successive bronze medal of the competition here on Sunday.

The only advantage for India would be an extra day of rest compared to its opponent, who stumbled to a 3-0 loss in the other semifinal against defending and world champion Australia on Saturday night, thereby getting less than 24 hours rest.   -  PTI

Out of the race and with its shot at the title gone, there is little more than pride at stake for host India when it takes on a depleted Germany in the play-off for its second successive bronze medal of the competition here on Sunday.

Rain dominated the proceedings as India failed to breach the Argentine citadel in the semifinal of the Hockey World League Final here on Friday night but anything less than a third-place here would be considered a failure for the team that won its first major medal after 33 years in the previous edition of the same tournament two years ago.

The only advantage for India would be an extra day of rest compared to its opponent, who stumbled to a 3-0 loss in the other semifinal against defending and world champion Australia on Saturday night, thereby getting less than 24 hours rest. That, along with an opponent struggling to put together a proper playing XI due to a combination of illness and injury and an expected full house backing it to up the standards compared to the previous outing between the two sides in the league stage here.

That was arguably India's worst performance in the tournament so far and the host would be hoping to avenge the defeat. Amazingly, the last time the two teams clashed for a podium finish in a major FIH event was 21 years ago, way back in 1996, when Germany thrashed India 5-0, also in front of home crowd at Chennai.

Several from that Indian side – goalkeepers Ashish Ballal and AB Subbaiah and defender-turned-MP Dilip Tirkey among them – would be in the visitors' gallery here on Sunday, hoping to see a reversal of fortunes but realistic enough to know it won't be easy. Ballal considers this German team clearly the best in this competition and Subbaiah is a fan of both their attack and defence.

In 2015, a determined India downed Netherlands in shootouts in Raipur. The Bhubaneswar crowd would be hoping for a similar high to finish off the tournament.

Depleted Germany goes down fighting

On Saturday, with the weather being perfect for play despite warnings of rain, Australia upped its game when it mattered most to enter its second successive final of the competition but not without a fight against a side that had just 13 players available for the game!

Germany, having already lost Timur Oruz to injury in the earlier stages, was further depleted with five of its members suffering from fever since Friday night, including captain Martin Haner and the

talented Christopher Ruhr. Four didn't participate in the game while substitute skipper Mats Grambusch took to the field despite being under the weather.

That meant Stefan Kermas only had 13 players to rotate throughout the game, even bringing on second goalkeeper Mark Appel as a kicker-back for the last 10 minutes. Despite the meagre resources, the Germans played their heart out to keep the Australians at bay for 3/4th of the game before Dylan Wotherspoon stuck the opener in the 42nd minute.

With Australia keeping up the intensity and pushing hard for more goals, it was hardly an equal contest against a tiring opponent who refused to give up. The Germans created five penalty corners and tried to conserve energy by holding the ball more, staying far back in defence and hoping for the PCs to work. They didn't but the first-time semifinalists could be proud of their performance.

Earlier in the day, Belgium defended Sebastien Dockier's fourth minute goal against Spain with all its legs to finish fifth in the competition.

The results: Semifinal: Australia 3 (Dylan Wotherspoon, Jeremy Haywards, Tom Wickham) bt Germany 0; 5-6 place: Belgium 1 (Sebastien Docker) bt Spain 0.

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