Fabian Unterkircher was hailed as a world-class indoor player as Austria won their third EuroHockey Indoor Championship to deny home success
In a classic tactical battle, Austria prevailed 2-1 over Germany at the Hamburg Sporthalle on Sunday in front of a boisterous 3,200 crowd as Unterkircher notched the winner.
Austria and Germany have jostled for the title since 2010, confirming their status as the best European indoor nations in men’s hockey. On Saturday, Germany won the women’s title for the 16th time following a thrilling 5-4 win over the Netherlands.
Austria denied them a home double as captain Xaver Hasun said of Unterkircher: “He’s not a bad indoor hockey player is he! He’s talent for the next few years and everyone will be happy to watch him and his personal reward was really well deserved.”
Germany controlled the ball for the first quarter and had the one moment of real penetration when Hendrik Mertgens was blocked illegally. Captain Paul Doesch’s stroke just about snuck in off Mateusz Szymczyk’s pads.
The leveler arrived in the 18th minute when Binder produced a subtle drop-off pass to Unterkircher who whipped it toward the top corner with goalkeeper Anton Brinckman only getting a half touch on it en route to the net.
The winner came from Unterkircher, who dummied a switch move before shooting himself into the net, confirming his player of the tournament title.
Hasun found it hard to sum up how special it was: “It’s fantastic! To be honest, in this moment, I am quite speechless – it’s brilliant. Doing it in this hall, in Germany, in Hamburg – a real hockey city – it’s brilliant for us.
“It’s always clear you are nervous in a game like this. Everyone is trying not to make any mistakes; we did it quite well. In the end, we could have scored a few more but Germany could as well. The whole tournament and also in this game, I think we deserved it and are very happy.”
Earlier, the Netherlands landed bronze for the second successive edition following a comprehensive 10-3 win over Switzerland.
The Swiss were hoping to win a medal for the first time since 2003 but they came unstuck early on and were never able to get a foothold in the tie.