In today's other encounters, England defeated Belgium by Golden Goal to claim Bronze, and in the 5-8 bracket, Ireland wrestled down Spain to take 5th, and Russia overwhelmed France for 7th place. Individual awards went to Taeke Taekema of the Netherlands as the event's topscorer, and Mo Fürste of Germany as Most Valuable Player.
The men's GANT EuroHockey Championship final between Germany and the Netherlands was a fitting end to a great tournament: skillful, exciting, a fantastic showcase for the sport. In a sold out 10.000 seater stadium full of enthusiastic supporters of the two best European teams, tension was high from the starting whistle, and there was barely a minute on the clock when Philipp Zeller tipped in a ball across from Mo Fürste.
Shocked into action, the Dutch attacked to pull even, and a fast and even game developed. With extraordinary skills on both sides, both teams had a number of opportunities, and the Netherlands were more effective, pulling level through Roderick Weusthof who beat German goalkeeper Max Weinhold with a superb reverse stick shot. The game went into frantic end-to-end play, with no advantages on either side, and stayed even until the 32nd minute, when a penalty corner for Germany yielded a penalty stroke that Mo Fürste converted without hesitation to give Germany the 2-1 halftime lead.
In the second half, both sides tried to control play better, but Florian Fuchs managed to get Germany ahead again with a great finishing touch to a ball from Thilo Stralkowski for the 3-1. The Netherlands were trying hard to make up some ground, but the German defense stood firm, and there was no passing their ranks, until the Dutch succeeded in winning a penalty corner, which the ever reliable Taeke Taekema converted with another cracking flick. At 2-3 only one goal behind again, the Dutch stepped their game up and attacked relentlessly, but could not beat the wall of the German defense. The Germans were still able to also create danger on fast breaks, and in the 68th minute, Oli Korn deflected a pass across into the goal for the 4-2 lead, and effectively, the victory for Germany. With the final whistle, the new European Champions were crowned: Germany men won their first European title since 2003.
The bronze medal game, played prior to the final, had already enjoyed a great atmosphere, with the stands filling up nicely and vocal groups of fans supporting both the Belgian and English sides. England came out blazing, and had early chances, one of which penalty corner specialist Richard Mantell used wisely to get England ahead. A fast-paced, high-energy game developed, with some great demonstrations of skill and the ball going back and forth between the two teams. Both sides looked dangerous, and there was no possibility to predict who would score next. Neither managed during the remainder of the first half, so they went into the changing rooms with England 1-0 up.
The second half continued much in the same vein, until Belgium managed to pull level ten minutes after the re-start when Alexandre de Paeuw pushed the ball past goalkeeper James Fair on a short corner. The English challenged the goal call, referring to the video umpire, but to no avail, the decision stood. With the scores level, both teams pushed for a decider, but neither managed. As the minutes ticked down, Belgium were the more active and more aggressive team, but couldn't score, and the 70 minutes ended. In extra time, England started off much more on the offense, pushing the game into the Belgian half and pressuring the circle constantly. Five minutes into the additional 2x7,5 minutes, a circle penetration of the English saw the ball disappear into a goalmouth scramble, and when the ball emerged, it rolled in front of James Tindall's feet, who wasted no time to hammer it over the line for the golden goal - bronze for England, 4th place for Belgium.
Previously, in the final two men's relegation pool matches, the teams had been playing for placement directly, as it had already been decided on Friday that the teams in the first match, France and Russia, would be relegated to Europe's second eight for 2013. The teams destined for the B division were also the first to take to the pitch today, for an early 8.30 start that saw a blitz start from the Russians with Dmitry Volkov and veteran Aleksandr Platonov scoring in the 5th and 6th minute respectively. The French were not fully awake, it seemed, but already behind, and it took them a while to adjust and get their feet on the ground, but they managed to pull level through goals from Lucas Sevestre and Jean-Baptiste Pauchet. A lively game developed, with opportunties at both ends, but the teams went into halftime at 2 goals each, but after the break, Russia caught a listless and tired French team off guard in the initial minutes again, scoring three goals in the first ten minutes to decide the match. France played with more energy after the 5-2 was established, but it wasn't enough to change the scoreline. Russia thus finishes 7th and France 8th in the 2011 EuroHockey Championship.
The second match of the day pitted Spain against Ireland for 5th place, with Spain needing to win, while Ireland only needed a draw to claim 5th rank. In a hard fought but lacklustre encounter without significant advantages on either side, Spain had more early chances, but struggled to convert until Pau Quemada sank a penalty corner flick in the 28th minute. It seemed like the mounting Spanish pressure would soon see them extend their lead, but unexpectedly, a penalty corner off a counter-attack gave the Irish the equalizer when Eugene Magee set a low flick right into the corner of the goal for the 1-1 half time score.
When the teams came back onto the field, Spain were still the slightly better team, and tried to control play, but Ireland today proved a fiercely determined and difficult opponent. A penalty corner converted by captain Santi Freixa got Spain ahead again, but Ireland were on the rise, creating more danger, and after a few opportunties, a penalty corner that they had forced by a video umpire decision finally gave the green shirts another equalizer through Timmy Cockram. The game was now firmly in Ireland's hand, and they went all out for the winning goal, especially after two cards for Spain in the 67th minute had them playing 11 on 9. The elusive winner finally came in the 70th minute, in the form of another penalty corner used wisely by Timmy Cockram for his second of the day. Ireland thus finished 5th, their best result in a men's European Nations tournament since Dublin 1995, while Spain ended up 6th, their worst finish since Dublin 1995.
For more information on this event, please visit the EHF website www.eurohockey.org.
The EuroHockey Championships in Mönchengladbach, which started last Saturday and ended today, have confirmed 5 more participants in the 2012 Olympic hockey tournament in addition to the already qualified Great Britain men and women, Pakistan men and China and Korea women: the men of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium have secured their ticket to London, as well as the women of Germany and the Netherlands.
1. Germany (European Champions)
7. Russia (Relegation for 2013)
8. France (Relegation for 2013)
Russia - France 5:2 (2:2)
Dmitry Volkov, Aleksandr Platonov 2, Nikoly Yankun, Pavel Golubev; Lucas Sevestre, Jean-Baptiste Pauchet
Spain - Ireland 2:3 (1:1)
Pau Quemada, Santi Freixa; Eugene Magee, Timothy Cockram 2
Belgium - England 1:1 (0:1) 1:2 AET
Alexandre de Paeuw; Richard Mantell, James Tindall
Netherlands - Germany 2:4 (1:2)
Roderick Weusthof, Teun de Nooijer; Philipp Zeller, Moritz Fürste, Florian Fuchs, Oliver Korn
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