By Rod Gilmour in Amsterdam
Germany coach Jami Mulders hailed the impact of his English assistant Brett Garrard as England women were beaten 1-0 at the Rabo EuroHockey Championships here.
Maddie Hinch produced several world-class stops but not even the Rio hero could save England women from defeat against a physical Germany who continue to underline their dogged approach when it comes to major tournament hockey.
Instead it was Hinch’s counterpart, Julia Ciupka, who stole the show by keeping out England’s persistent wave of attacks at the Wagener Stadium.
Defeat means that they must now overcome Scotland to progress to the semi-finals. But a likely meeting against the Netherlands awaits.
“We are massively disappointed with the result,” said Dave Ralph, the England coach. “We were in and around the circle a lot but goal scoring is the toughest thing to do sometimes.”
Germany had beaten England twice on their way to Euro glory in 2013, but only once in open play over 12 meetings since 2010.
Yet Mulders’ side looked a shadow of the team which fell 4-1 to England at the last EuroHockey in London.
They were ultimately indebted to Ciupka and Cecile Pieper, who slotted home through Hollie Webb’s legs in the fifth minute for the game’s sole goal.
The Olympic bronze medallists took on a physical approach against the Rio golden girls – and still survived England’s relentless pursuit of the equaliser.
Mulders was naturally delighted with Ciupka, but it was his decision to phone Garrard, the Surbiton coach who has overseen four domestic titles, which could prove telling this week.
“I called him to be my assistant as I was pretty convinced he could be a key part of the group – and he is,” said Mulders.
“Since the first day he arrived, he has influenced the girls with his way.
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“His knowledge, his behaving and his approach has been fantastic in the last day, so let’s just say he had an impact on the game.”
As far as performances on the field went, the German added: “I’m not suprised by Ciupi. Germany naturally always produces good goalkeepers. Give them time and space to grow and they will deliver.
“You need such goalkeepers to win such crucial games and that was her job.”
Hinch conjured several key stops – notably diving to her right and parrying away a razor close chance after the break.
She then closed down the Germans twice late on with foot challenges.
England’s high press produced an array of chances throughout the 60 minutes – but they couldn’t convert. They were fruitful down the right flank, but the final ball never seemed to land kindly, or on an English stick.
Susannah Townsend, the England midfielder, said: “We controlled the game pretty well but I thought their keeper had an incredible game. She got in front of every shot we had.
“But our aims haven’t changed and we’d like to think that whoever we come up against in the semi-finals, we can beat.”
Meanwhile, Ireland men opened up England’s pool after they earned a 1-1 draw with Germany, the Olympic bronze medallists.
Ireland, who had never beaten Germany in 30 years, survived late drama when Germany were awareded a last-gasp penalty corner.
Paul Gleghorne, brother of England defender Mark, dived dangerously – but heroically – to prevent a German shot and Ireland survived a second penalty corner appeal.