HWL: India win bronze, Germans hearts

Hosts record a 2-1 win to finish third

HWL: India win bronze, Germans hearts

When Germany met India in the group stage of the World League Final, they handed the hosts a brutal lesson in passing. In the bronze medal play-off game on Sunday, they gave the world a beautiful presentation on guts and team spirit, despite suffering a 1-2 defeat to India.

Able to field just 11 players after four failed to recover from illness suffered prior to the semifinal on Saturday and two more caught the bug, the depleted Germans gave it their all and almost threatened to steal bronze before eventually running out of steam at the Kalinga Stadium here.

Such was the display by the Germans, who collapsed on their backs at the sound of the final hooter, the Indian players and the packed house gave them a standing ovation, appreciating their will to fight despite knowing they were coming into the bout extremely weakened.

"This is one of the best performances I've ever been part of," said goalkeeper Mark Appel who played as a centre-forward and scored the equaliser. "After the game against Australia yesterday we were all tired and two more players fell ill. Eventually the coach gave us the choice on whether to play or not. We decided to play. The spirit of this squad is amazing. Yesterday and today, we showed it."

Aware that they had to play the entire 60 minutes without being substituted, the Germans predictably started cautiously. They didn't employ their usual fast-passing game but chose to move forward gradually and conserve energy. They paced their attacks well and didn't allow India to dominate.

The hosts were ragged in the opening quarter. Their passes were poor and wayward, making life somewhat easier for the Germans. If fact, the Germans shared possession and created the better of the chances. They could have ended the opening quarter ahead but Florian Fuchs shot wide off a penalty corner and Mats Grambusch, following some brilliant stick work, shot wide.

India then faced several anxious moments four minutes into the second quarter when Germany earned three consecutive penalty corners. However, missing ace drag-flicker Martin Haner, the Germans couldn't make it count with Indian keeper Suraj Karkera saving all of them.

Senior striker S V Sunil then calmed the tension with a fine reaction goal that originated from a quick-fire counter-attack in the 20th minute. Akashdeep Singh was fed the ball at the edge of the circle and the striker unleashed a ferocious reverse hit which was saved by keeper Tobias Walter, who was exceptional all night. Luckily for Indians, the ball fell to Sunil and he hit it on the first attempt.

Soon after the goal the Indians dozed off and paid the price. Sensing an opportunity, the Germans suddenly intensified there raids but just couldn't get the elusive final ball. That pass came in the 36th minute when Grambusch whipped one blistering shot into the circle. An unmarked Appel, who hadn't played as an outfield player for 10 years, showed great skill in stopping it and then guiding it home.

The Germans celebrated and knew they had a chance to make a statement. The Indians then regained their focus, knowing a defeat would attract a mountain of criticism. But as the game wore on, they started to feel the tension as well. Drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh, who has misfired too many times this tournament, struck when it mattered most in the 54th minute as players huddled around him. The Germans refused to concede defeat still and surged forward but the Indians held firm.

Result: India: 2 (SV Sunil 21st, Harmanpreet Singh 54th) bt Germany: 1 (Mark Appel 36th).

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