India overcame Germany 2-1 to win the bronze medal at the Hockey World League Final . SV Sunil (20′) gave India the lead in the first half but poor defending resulted in Mark Appel (36′) equalising in the second half.
Harmanpreet Singh (54′) then converted a penalty corner six minutes before the final hooter to seal the match in India’s favour.
Germany fan or not, you have to feel for Germany. They were down to 13 [including goalkeeper] men against their semi-final clash against Australia. On Sunday, they were further reduced to 11 meaning they won’t be able to rotate players through substitution. A few of them were lying down after the match, in pure exhaustion and disappointment after the energy-sapping defeat.
The scoreline after the first half read in India’s favour but the depleted Germans fought and it was clear they had the upperhand – compact in defence and superior in attack. Indian defence was shoddy to say the least as they allowed one penalty corner after another in quick succession. There were six penalty corners for the four-time Olympic champions after the first two quarters. That they failed to convert was due to goalkeeper Suraj Karkera’s blocks and that their first choice dragflicker and captain Martin Haner was missing in action due to illness.
The Germans weren’t ready to go down without a fight. But India got a crucial lead when a brilliant diagonal ball by Harmanpreet Singh from the midfield threaded through the German defence and found Akashdeep Singh on the left inside the D but his reverse hit was blocked and SV Sunil swept the resulting rebound, diving, inside the cage to put India 1-0 ahead in the second quarter.
This was after Indian forwards created several attempts in the beginning of the first quarter but either there was nobody to receive the cross in front of an open goal or the opposition defenders were simply too good. Germany had to deploy regular ‘keeper Mark Appel as centre forward with captain Mats Grambusch leading the midfield. Grambusch got the better of Indian defenders on several occasions, outrunning Rupinder Pal Singh on one occasion and his cross found a diving Appel in front of the cage but it evaded him. Then another miss from Rupinder inside the D to intercept a pass from the backline saw Grambusch picking the ball but his attempt was off target.
But Germans soon drew level with an unmarked Appel pushing a crashed shot from Grambusch inside the goal. The Germans celebrated as if they had won the contest. They were playing at a slow pace, end to end just to conserve their energies to last the entirety of the bronze-medal match. Grambusch ran two Indian defenders ragged to crash the ball inside the Indian circle where Apple found him in a one-on-one with the Indian goalie and he put the ball past him.
Indian strategy has been to go all guns blazing in the final quarter and against a tiring Germany that tactic would have worked perfectly. They began their search for the winner and during a period of sustained pressure, won three consecutive penalty corners. They fluffed two of them but in the third Harmanpreet was on the mark with a powerful drag-flick to his left that went past a diving Tobias Walter. Germans referred, more in desperation than hope, for the flick being taken outside the circle but the replay cleared doubts if there were any.
India held onto their slim lead before the capacity crowd at Kalinga Stadium made a collective roar after their team had sealed a second straight bronze at the HWL Final.