Olympic Champions Germany defeated World Champions Australia by 3-2 to reach the final of Hero Hockey Champions Trophy 2014 in Bhubaneswar against Pakistan, who overcame the hosts India by 4-3 with a goal 2 minute from final hooter. Earlier in the Netherlands defeated Belgium 4-2 in shoot-out after a 2-2 draw in regulation to set-up fifth place play off against Argentina. Argentina edged past England by 2-1 in other 5th-8th classification match.
It means that an Asian team will be in the final of Champions Trophy after 1998, when Pakistan lost to Netherlands 3-1 to finish second and the World Champions Australia’s six-year domination of the competition will come to an end.
Such is the format of the eight team competition, with every team qualifying for the quarter finals irrespective of their pool phase results, both Pakistan and Germany reached the final having finished on the bottom of Pools A and B respectively, winning one match between them in the opening phase.
In an electrifying match with high on emotions, both the teams, India and Pakistan, had at least a player on bench approximately for a half, of which Pakistan played with 10 players for 17 minutes, while India were one men down for 12 minutes. It was Pakistan who emerged as winner with a late goal from Qadir (58th minute), but their unsporting behavior (throwing feasts, shouting at crowd, removing shirts, etc) after the hooter drew a lot of criticism from hockey fraternity throughout the world.
India got off a good start when Gurjinder Singh scored on a PC in 12th minute, but Qadir Arslan equalized in 17th minute to take his team at level terms. Both the teams had some good chances but bad traps, poor basics, stopped India from taking lead.
A man down Pakistan came back on the turf with determination and caught Indian team on wrong foot, when Waqas took his team ahead in 32nd minute, but India equalized through Dharamvir in 38th minute. Yet again one men down, Pakistan, earned a PC and converted through Irfan in an indirect routine to restore the lead in 44th minute, but India were quick to get back on level terms within a minute when Nikkin Thimmaiah found the target on a cross from right flank.
In fourth quarter, both the teams were looking for a goal to avoid nerve wrecking shoot-out, it was Man of the Match Qadir Arslan, who scored his second goal of the game and winning goal for Pakistan with just 90 seconds to go on clock.
In the first semi-final between Australia and Germany, the match had barely found its stride before the Kookaburras fell behind to Timur Oruz’s deflection five minutes in. Gaining a metre on his marker, the German deflected the ball home inside the far post. Jeremy Hayward came close to levelling three minutes later from a penalty corner but his shot from the second phase hit the side netting the wrong side of the post. And less than 60 seconds later Australia were 2-0 down as they struggled to clear the ball from a crowded circle; Mats Grambusch’s shot took the faintest of touches off Fergus Kavanagh on the way past Andrew Charter in goal.
An uneventful second quarter came to life in the dying seconds when Germany captain Moritz Furste pulled off an outstanding chest high goal line clearance to bat away Chris Ciriello’s goal-bound penalty corner. It might have been the catalyst Australia required but just 30 seconds after the restart they fell further behind as Florian Fuchs showed composure to lift the ball into the net after Charter had initially denied Martin Zwicker.
Then came the fight back. Chris Ciriello did what he does best, firing home a low penalty corner through the legs of goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi for 3-1 with more than 25 minutes remaining. Eight minutes later, Nick Budgeon dropped his hands and lashed a shot into the German goal for 3-2 after Jacobi and Furste had denied Matthew Dawson and Russell Ford at a penalty corner.
Australia were by now in the ascendancy with pressure weighing heavily on the Germany defence. With both teams temporarily down to ten men through suspensions, Jake Whetton lifted a reverse stick shot over the top as he turned, off-balance, at the top of the circle. Then, with four minutes remaining Jacobi’s big left glove thwarted Ciriello from yet another corner.
As the final minute approached the Kookaburras made a last throw of the dice, replacing goalkeeper Tyler Lovell with Tim Deavin as kicking back. And it almost paid off. With the extra outfielder the Kookaburras forced Germany deep, flashing a cross into the circle that was headed for Jake Whetton unmarked at the back post. But as he shaped to sweep home Jacobi again produced a telling touch, diving with his stick to deflect the ball onto Whetton’s foot to prevent a late equaliser and the shoot-out that would have followed.