Germany showed once again why they are the world’s number one team with a classic smash and grab to defeat Belgium 3-1 and win their eighth Eurohockey Championships.
Goals from Martin Zwicker, Benjamin Wess and Oliver Korn were enough to cancel out Tom Boon’s controversial opener, leaving the home crowd disappointed and ensuring both men’s and women’s titles went to Germany.
Belgium controlled the first half with their high energy, high pace game pushing Germany onto the back foot for almost the entire first period.
The first chance fell to Belgium, Boon’s pass found Cedric Charlier in the D but Nicolas Jacobi was out like lightning, sliding out to make the block. Jacobi was called upon again as Boon got on the end of a cross to deflect goalwards, but the German goalkeeper got a stick to the ball to turn it around the post.
Germany’s chances were scarce but Florian Fuchs drew a good save out of Vincent Vanasch, and then Mats Grambusch played on whilst everyone else waited for the umpire’s whistle, shooting low at goal, only to be repelled by the Belgian Goalkeeper.
That took the game to half time, and despite the first half dominance of the Red Lions, Germany had done a good job of soaking up the pressure, ensuring the hosts had nothing to show for their pressure.
Fuchs had the best chance of the match in the opening moments of the second half, Tobias Hauke’s long pass found the forward in the D but Vanasch was out well to block the shot from the No.23. Belgium broke immediately and Boon latched onto a through ball and shot on the reverse as he fell, beating Jacobi to send the crowd wild. Germany asked for a video referral, claiming the ball had been played with the back of Boon’s stick. The replays seemed to confirm this but inexplicably the video umpire advised John Wright to give the goal.
Germany’s sense of injustice lasted just four minutes. Grambusch did well, breaking down the left and reaching the baseline, his cross found Zwicker who turned the ball home from close range to make it 1-1.
Now it was Germany’s turn to step up the pressure. Thilo Stralkowski showed good strength to drive into the D, finding Oliver Korn but Vanasch, not for the first time, made the save to keep his side on level terms. Vanasch saved well from a Stralkowski penalty corner but you sensed the goal was coming. On 52 minutes, it did. Wess drove into the D from the left, swapping passes along the way. In a crowded D he shot into the far corner with a precise low strike to make it 2-1 to the reigning champions.
Thomas Briels brought the best out of Jacobi once again as Belgium won the ball high up the pitch and burst into the D. Jacobi was fast becoming a pivotal figure in the match as he saved a Florent Van Aubel deflection from a Loick Luypaert penalty corner and then made an even better save to turn over a Boon special from the top of the D.
With time running out, the crowd perhaps knew it wasn’t to be the Red Lions’ day as Sebastien Dockier finally beat Jacobi, only for his shot to cannon off the woodwork and away to safety. To add to their misery, Germany broke in the 63rd minute and made it 3-1. Grambusch again burst into the D on the left, his shot was partially saved by Vanasch, but with the goalkeeper unsure where the looping ball was, Korn touched the ball over the line to seal the win for the Germans.
It was tough on the home side who had dominated the game for large periods. At times they had their illustrious opponents on the rack as their pace and skill going forwards threatened to run away with the game. In the end, a combination of a fine goalkeeping performance by Jacobi and Germany’s ruthlessness in front of goal made the difference.
Second place represents Belgium’s best ever finish in the competition. With a partisan home crowd and arguably the most exciting, talented side in the competition, Marc Lammers’ side may feel this was a missed opportunity.
Germany have now won this competition a record eight times, and showed as they always do, they are the perfect tournament team: Always doing just enough when it matters.