Thursday, June 20, 2024

Hockey World Cup: Efficient Germany set up England clash as France cast aside

Bhubaneswar — France endured a torrid afternoon in defence as efficient Germany set up a World Cup quarter-final clash against England with a cakewalk of a victory at the Kalinga Stadium.

Four goals in 10 first-half minutes from Andre Henning’s ruthless side effectively ended this cross-over, as Germany racked up their 13th successive win over the French since they first played back in 1928.  

Goalkeeper Arthur Thieffry was rotated at half-time during a spell he would rather forget as Marco Miltkau, Nicolas Wellen – with his fifth of the tournament – Mats Grambusch and Moritz Trompertz set Germany on an early evening stroll.

Germany’s tight press gave France little to work with until Francois Goyet’s late PC rebound goal after sustained France pressure in the final minutes. Even then Germany finished the better as Gonzalo Peillat buried a low PC in a 5-1 win.

France still have 19 months until the Paris Olympics to rectify their inadequacies barring captain Victor Charlez’s shoulder strength – but have shown glimpses that they can mix with the top nations at this World Cup.  

Barring a 2-1 victory over South Africa and coming seconds away from beating Argentina until a last-gasp leveller in a 5-5 draw, France had shipped eight against Australia. Should they have won against Los Leones, it would have handed them a cross-over against Korea. Who knows how their tournament might have fared from there, but at least they know their weaknesses now before the eyes of the world converge on Paris in 2024. 

Tom Grambusch beats Victor Charlet to the ball in 5-1 win PIC: WorldSportPics/Frank Uijlenbroek

There was at least one early sign for the French when Gaspard Baumgarten scooped neatly over a German defender and won France’s first PC. With Victor Charlet off the field, Timothee Clement flicked wide. 

At the other end, Justus Weigand’s rising forehand was gloved away by Thieffry. It was to be a brief moment of joy. Two minutes later an instinctive backhand flick from Miltkau and a Christopher Ruhr-like roar handed Germany the lead with 37 seconds left of the first quarter.

A mix up from Thieffry doubled France’s lead after Ruhr had led a German counter. With Germany down to 10, they cleared from the circle, Ruhr letting fly. Thieffry had chances to clear with his boot, but Wellen nudged a bouncing ball under the Frenchman.

A third arrived amid more circle woe, quick ball into the D and Grambusch on hand to tuck home. On the next counter, a fourth came via a penalty corner, Thieffry unable to get a proper left boot from Trompertz’s low flick.

France were spared when Germany went wide from successive PCs in the third quarter, with Edgar Reynaud replacing Thieffry. The final two quarters offered little as France ended brightly. Germany had nine penalty corners all in, with two goals to show for it, and will have to shape up to surpass England’s tight defence, although their field play prowess looks in fine fettle on this evidence.

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