Joy for Austria and Germany at the Indoor World Cup
Dramatic, exciting, thrilling, the “best indoor hockey event ever” – the superlatives and praise just keeping coming for the Fifth Indoor Hockey World Cup. The five-day hockey extravaganza took place at the Max-Schmeling-Halle in Berlin, a massive sports complex that had been modified, branded and prepared to meet the demands of a hockey schedule that included 80 matches, with the first three days of action running from 9am until 11pm.
It was an event where history was made several times over. Iran men became the first non-European team to win a medal when they took the bronze. Along with Australia, they were part of the first medal match not to involve an European side. It was also a first medal for Belarus women and debut performances for the USA women and Kazakhstan men.
In addition, the 8,000-strong crowd was the largest to ever watch an indoor hockey match.
The drama also lay in the presentation. The music, the flags, the excellent rapport between the crowds and the pitch presenter all made for a spine-tingling atmosphere but this was ramped up to stratospheric levels for the finals.
As the players names were called they entered the pitch via a tunnel of flames. Giant screens replayed the action and goals, saves and great skills were cheered vociferously by the knowledgable crowds.
While South America, and particularly Argentina, are known for the passion and vibrancy of their crowds, this was crowd mania European style. Ritualistic chants, Euro-pop music and a regular, mesmerising question and answer dialogue between pitch commentator and the crowds all added to the ramped up atmosphere.
And so to the final matches.
Germany v the Netherlands
Anne Schröder scored the winning goal as Germany overturned a 1-0 deficit against the Netherlands to win the 5th Women's Indoor Hockey World Cup 2018 in front of an sell-out, 8000-strong crowd at the Max-Schmeling-Halle.
The venue was a cauldron of noise throughout the contest, with the passionate home fans determined to cheer their team to victory. A scoreless first half saw both teams go close, with Die Danas going closest before the Dutch took the lead six minutes after half time when Lieke van Wijk scored from a penalty corner.
Three minutes later the Germany fans were given something to cheer about when they were awarded a penalty stroke. The opportunity was dispatched with clinical precision by 20-year-old Nike Lorenz, who showed a level of calmness and composure beyond her years to bring her team back into the match.
The winning goal arrived eight minutes from the end of the contest through Anne Schröder, who surged down the right before firing past Dutch shot-stopper Alexandra Heerbaart to spark scenes of sheer jubilation in the stadium. The Dutch pressed hard for an equaliser but Germany held firm to dethrone the title holders claim a third Indoor World Cup success, adding to those earned at the Leipzig 2003 and Poznan 2007 events
“I cannot explain how I am feeling right now”, said Germany’s Luisa Steindor after the match. “The noise of the crowd was unbelievable. It was such a tough game but also such an entertaining game. We have had a few challenges in the tournament and this match was no different, but to come back from being a goal behind is the best kind of victory you can have.”
Asked whether Germany had saved their best performance for the final, Schröder said: “One hundred percent. We had some challenges because we didn’t take some of the early chances we had, but to produce the fightback we did was just wonderful.”
Belarus were the winners of the bronze medal game, battling to a 2-1 victory over Ukraine. It is the first time that Belarus have finished on the podium at an Indoor World Cup, going some way to avenging the defeat that they suffered at the hands of Ukraine in the bronze medal game at the Poznan 2011 event.
Ukraine - who were defeated by Netherlands in Saturday’s semi-finals - took the lead in the 15th minute thanks to a penalty corner from Oksana Ponomarenko. The Belarusians levelled three minutes later when Yuliya Kurhanskaya fired home, leaving things evenly poised ahead of the second half. Belarus scored their winner seven minutes from the end of the contest, with Maryna Nikitsina’s cool finish proving enough to create a moment of history for a team that has performed brilliantly throughout the event in Berlin.
Speaking after the match, Belarus Head Coach Herman Kruis said: “There was a lot of disappointment yesterday evening (after the defeat to Germany), so we spent a lot of time working with the team to make them understand how important it was to go for the bronze medal. They worked so hard to recover from the disappointment of losing the semi-final and I am so happy for them that they achieved a bronze medal in the Indoor World Cup. I’m really proud of the team and we have made big steps forward at this event.”
Women’s Results - Medal matches
Women’s Bronze Medal Match: Belarus 2, Ukraine 1.
Women’s Final: Netherlands 1, Germany 2.
Best Player: Lisa Altenburg (GER)Best Goalkeeper: Alexandra Heerbaart (NED)
Rising Player: Nike Lorenz (GER)
Top scorers: Kiana-Che Cormack (NAM) & Yana Vorushylo (UKR) - Both nine goals
7: Czech Republic
Men’s Final: Germany v Austria
Into a hall that was awash with German flags, Germany and Austria took to the pitch for one last match. The players entered through a tunnel of flames, which was fitting as this was a final that was intense, skilful, dramatic and played at a ferocious pace.
It was six minutes before a goal was scored and it was one that delighted the crowds. Germany won two penalty corners in quick succession and, although Christopher Rühr saw his shot well-saved by Mateusz Szymczyk in the Austrian goal, the second penalty corner was dispatched with deadly accuracy by captain Martin Häner.
Just a minute later and Martin Zwicker added a second. His goal was the result of fine individual skill as he pulled the ball back and then lifted it past Szymczyk.
Austria responded to this in the best way possible, with Dominic Uher rattling home a penalty corner in the ninth minute to bring the score to 2-1. The match settled into a rhythm for much of the remainder of the half but with two minutes remaining in the opening period a quick break by Austria saw Tobias Walter pull off a courageous save as Austria broke through via the nifty stick work of Benjamin Stanzl.
Seconds later, Walter's counterpart Szymczyk did exactly the same at the other end of the field to deny Fabian Pehlke.
Five minutes into the second half and Rühr added to the scoreline. He rattled home a penalty corner and as he roared in celebration it was clear just how much was invested emotionally in this match.
One thing was always certain, as EuroHockey Champions, Austria were not done yet. It was fitting that Körper should score and he added to his own tally and brought his team back into the game with seven minutes left on the clock.
What happened next is as dramatic as sport can get. With a few seconds on the clock Körper scored from a penalty corner and sent the match into shoot-out.
Both 'keepers have been outstanding all tournament and so they continued to perform as they took centre stage. At the end of the first round it stood at 2-2 and sudden death beckoned.
After a save apiece, it was Hauke's turn. His attempt was saved and it was almost a given that Michael Körper would be the player to seal champion status for Austria.
“It has been quite a few months for us,” said Körper after the game. “First the EuroHockey Indoor title and now this. We went 2-0 down and then 3-1 down but we came back. It was a thrilling game. Our defence was dam brave all game and we can be very proud of what we have done here tonight.”
In the bronze medal match earlier in the day, Iran made history by becoming the first non-European country to win a medal at the 5th Men's Indoor Hockey World Cup.
They did it by sticking to their own unique style of incisive indoor hockey. The tactic that proved to be the undoing of Australia was the long diagonal pass out of defence that by-passed the Australia press.
For Australia, their energy and dynamism was on show but this was not to be their day as they hit the cross-bar and upright at crucial times in the game. The opening minutes of the match were cagey as the two teams tested each other.
Both teams played an open, passing game in the mid-court but tight defences at either end meant there was little in the way of goal mouth action.
This all changed in the 14th minute as Iran suddenly upped the pace. A blistering run down the right-hand side of the pitch by Reza Norrouzzadeh split the Australian defence and Navid Taherirad was on hand to push the ball smartly into the goal. Seconds later Taherirad nearly made it two as he was again left in acres of space and his shot rasped wide of the post.
As the half drew to a close an Australia player was given a green card and Iran made the most of their man advantage. Behdad Beiranvand took the ball wide on the left and slipped to Norrouzzadeh. As Benjamin Rennie attempted to block the shot, the ball bounced cruelly over the Australia keeper and rolled into the goal.
After the break Iran continued to turn the screw, moving the ball at pace and not giving Australia a chance to make those all important connections or get any sort of rhythm to their game. When Australia did break, the element of good fortune that is so important in hockey was missing. Jake Sherren skilfully created space of himself only to see his clever shot striking the cross bar and bouncing harmlessly away.
Iran put the game further from Australia's reach when Mohammed Asnaashari sped down the right-hand boards and slipped to Hamid Nooranian, who held his nerve to lift the ball over the head of the advancing Rennie.
Two more goals followed as Australia threw everything into attack. Iran were able to counter and Norrouzzadeh was able to complete his hat-trick.
Speaking after the game, an emotional Yaghoub Bahrami said: "This was the very best day of my life. To come here and hear the amazing crowds cheering for us and to go out and play like that. It is an incredible feeling and one that will be so important to hockey players back in Iran."
A poignant symbol of the enormously good spirit in which this tournament was played was the sight of the Iranian and Australian goalkeepers swapping shirts at the end of their match.
With packed, loud stadiums; fast, furious action; a new name on the trophy; a new continent standing on the podium, indoor hockey has just won a huge amount of new fans.
Gold medal match - Germany 3, Austria 3. Austria win (2-3) shoot-out
Bronze medal match - Australia 0, Iran 5.
Individual awards men
Best Player - Christopher Rühr (Germany)
Best Goalkeeper - Sasan Hataminejad (Iran)
Rising player - Fabian Unterkirchen (Austria)
Czech Republic 6.
Trinidad & Tobago
11. South Africa