Germany, packing guns one too many

The victorious Germany team.-PICS: S. THYAGARAJAN

Germany's trophy triumph — its 11th since the inception of the event, with the last coming in 2008 — was well in line with expectations. Notwithstanding the absence of such seasoned stars as Matthias Witthaus and Timo Wess, the Germans displayed a professional zeal and proficiency that none of the other three teams possessed, writes S. Thyagarajan.

All the euphoria generated in the wake of sharing the Azlan Shah Trophy with Korea in last May evaporated for India at Hamburg. A solitary point earned in the BDO four-nation hockey competition is a poor advertisement for a squad striving to be in shape for the Commonwealth and Asian Games later this year. The reasons were many. But striking among them was the move to rest established players and blood youngsters for an important European sojourn. The idea badly misfired. The intention was laudable, but the timing was bad.

It is apparent that differences of opinion exist between the selectors and the chief coach, Jose Brasa. The Spaniard wanted the best of the pick, regardless of age. But the selectors did not comply. This dichotomy in thought reflected in the poor showing. The team functioned well in patches: scoring a handful of splendid goals, but making a mess in the final minutes. Imagine a national team leading by two goals twice in matches, ending up with a draw, allowing one rival, Japan, to score the equaliser 40 seconds before the hooter! Even against Germany, the Olympic Champion, India led thrice, sharing four goals at half-time. And leading 3-1, it tumbled to a 3-5 defeat. The time between the fifth German goal and the final whistle was 50 seconds!

Predictably, Brasa is bewildered by the trend. He calls this as an “illness.” He is amazed as to how this bug has returned to haunt India after it was believed to have been consigned to the flames before the World Cup. The biggest worry is lack of consistency.

The team could not put up a sustained defence, or attack for more than a quarter of an hour. The youthful verve mirrored so eloquently by Amir Khan, Mandeep Antil and Danish Mujataba contrasted with the lethargy of Sarvanjit Singh, Rajpal Singh and Tushar Khandekar. All had a bad tournament, save for a few good moments here and there.

Even the usually energetic Gurbaj Singh was found wanting. The midfield, however, thrived on the hard work of Vikas Pillay and Bharat Chikkara. With Sardar Singh reporting sick after the opening match, the deep defence was quickly reduced to a shambles by any frontline that showed a modicum of speed and method.

Goalkeeper Sreejesh's tenacity was unequal to the pressure he had to face from the rivals, especially in the penalty corners. Why Chettri never got a game is puzzling.

Germany's trophy triumph — the 11th since the inception of the event, with the last coming in 2008 — was well in line with expectations. Notwithstanding the absence of such seasoned stars as Matthias Witthaus and Timo Wess, the Germans displayed a professional zeal and proficiency that none of the other three teams possessed.

Christopher Zeller, the lethal striker, celebrated his return to the team with a hat-trick against Japan and completed the event as the top scorer. Skipper Maximillan Mueller, Mortiz Furste and Florian Fuchs all played their parts to perfection to gratify their dynamic coach, Markus Weise.

Japan was a revelation. Under the new Dutch coach of Suriam origin, the team made one sit up. It now has all the ingredients to emerge as a major continental force. Asiad 2010 in China may well become a stage for Japan to show its potential. Determination, hard work, a full-fledged force in attack backed by nippy running that synchronises beautifully with the ability to display variations in penalty corners are the hallmarks of the Japanese approach-work. Some of the indirect conversions were spectacular. Skipper Kazuhiro Tsubouchi along with Sakamoto and Nagasawa formed a formidable combination in the execution of penalty corners.

Paul van Ass, the new Dutch coach, is convinced that his young bunch holds the key to Netherlands' future. The 6-3 win in the opening match against India was so emphatic that it almost led the Dutch coach to wonder whether it was worthwhile recalling the seniors back home for the Champions Trophy from July 31.

Christopher Zeller... the top-scorer of the tournament.-

The Indians were outplayed in every aspect of the game. But the Dutchmen were shocked by the persistence of the Japanese, who caused an upset of the first magnitude. Bob de Voogd, Rogier Hoffman and Klaas Vermuellen were notable for the Dutch in the event.

There was noticeable evidence of the renowned German perfection in every aspect of the organisation headed by Herr Peter Mueller of the DHB, with excellent media facilities supervised and controlled by the genial Christoph Plass, Communications Manager, DHB and his team of volunteers.