Germany claimed the Samsung Champions Trophy by defeating Australia in the final here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Sunday. An early goal of captain Timo Wess was enough for the Germans to take the Champions Trophy for the ninth time in hockey history. Defending Champions Netherlands took the bronze medal, while Korea finished fourth.
In the final Germany met Australia, the two teams having locked horns just a day before. Having blocked out Saturday´s humiliating 0-5 defeat, Germany came out strong and scored in the 5th minute when Timo Wess leisurely flicked a laid-off penalty corner ball into the top left corner. Germany went on to dominate the initial phase of the match but could not score again, even though the Kookaburras were slow to find their rhythm.
Germany had a few more opportunities in the first half, but grew increasingly weary of risking their lead, especially after the break. Australia kept attacking, pressuring for the elusive equalizer, and managed to create scores of opportunities, but could not capitalize on them.
Eventually, the Kookaburras would have deserved better for their ceaseless efforts in the later part of the match than to go down to a lone fifth minute goal but could not manage to overcome the stonewalling German defense that managed to hang on by the skin of their teeth until the hooter ended the match. Christian Schulte had to pull out all stops, making numerous fabulous saves to keep the Germans ahead, while the defense around captain Timo Wess worked double-time cleaning out the circle again and again, but in the end, it was all worth it, as they claimed the title,
trophy, and gold medals.
Netherlands took the bronze medal by winning against Korea. The Dutch came out aggressively pushing towards the goal, but Korea absorbed the pressure quietly, not doing much in offense but holding Oranje and keeping them from scoring. In the 15th minute however, the Dutch were able to win a penalty corner, and the ever reliable Taeke Taekema gave them the lead with his 7th goal of the event, thereby joining Sohail Abbas at the top of the all-time Champions Trophy goalscorer list with 40 goals. A late Rob Reckers goal gave the Netherlands a deserved two goal half-time lead, having done most of the work in the game up to that point.
When the teams got back, a Woon Kon Yeo goal reduced the lag to one goal, and evoked memories of the pool match between the two teams, where Korea scored five goals in the second half to win 2-6. The Dutch became more cautious and did not give Korea as much space, until a goal from Jeroen Hertzberger re-established their two goal lead. Korea got close again with a late Byung Hoon Kim goal off a penalty corner, but ran out of time for the elusive equalizer.
The Dutch survived the late Korean raids, and won the bronze medal in a close encounter between two teams producing a superb display of hockey. The Netherlands are deserving winner after an excellent first half, but they had a narrow escape in the closing minutes of the game. They are certainly pleased to have avenged their spectacular loss 2-6 in pool play.
In the play-off for 5th/6th place, Spain met Great Britain and won the lead after only a few minutes with a rebound goal from Victor Sojo. Eight minutes later, Spain made good use of a penalty corner. It looked like Spain was going to walk away with the match quite easily, despite Britain being the more active team, but the Spanish became complacent and gave away their lead, allowing two first half penalty corner goals of the Brits.
In the second half, Spain came out more alert. Play turned physical until a yellow card for Alex Fabregas made both teams more cautious again. Spain struggled but survived the period of numerical disadvantage, and eventually regained the lead when
Santi Freixa converted a penalty corner, and two minutes later, Xavi Ribas put away another for the 4-2 end result.
Great Britain tried hard on Sunday but could only challenge the Spanish when they slacked, unable to keep up when Spain shifted gears. By winning the play-off for 5th/6th place, Spain have also won the added benefit of an invitation to next year´s edition of the Champions Trophy: they join Germany, Australia, Korea, the Netherlands, and Argentina for the tournament in Rotterdam in June 2008.
In the first encounter of the day, Pakistan took on Malaysia. The Greenshirts gained an early lead when Imran Muhammad capitalized on a penalty corner, but were then held at bay by the hosts until after half-time. Malaysia fought to put forward another of the great performances that spectators have come to expect of them in this competition but looked more tired than in the past days, and struggled to find their best hockey.
After another early goal for Pakistan in the second half however, Malaysia increased the pressure despite a period of being one man down due to a yellow card and managed a pair of goals late in the match to draw the scores level. Pakistan desperately tried to bag the match in regular time but could not. In extra time however, it didn´t take them long to win a penalty corner that Imran Muhammad dutifully converted for the golden goal, making himself the first and last scorer in the match.
Malaysia finishes last, but surprised everyone in this competition, playing at a level way above their world ranking and completely unimpressed with the status and credentials of their mighty opponents. They did not lose by more than two goals to anyone but the Spanish, and gave most of their opponents a ride for their money - even World Champions Germany, whom they will also meet in their Olympic Qualifier in Japan in April. Pakistan must be bitterly disappointed with their final ranking of 7th in the field of eight that also puts them out of next year's Champions Trophy.
Furthermore, the following players were recognized with individual awards: Dutch Taeke Taekema and Korean Jong Hyun Jang as the topscorers, Dutch Guus Vogels as the Best Goalkeeper, Eddie Ockenden from Australia as the Best Young Player, German captain Timo Wess as the Best Player of the Final, and Matthias Witthaus, also from Germany, as the Best Player of the tournament. The Fair Play Trophy went to Great
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