10 December 2017
Bhubaneswar: India toiled hard for a 2-1 win over a depleted but resilient German side in the bronze medal playoff of the Hockey World League (HWL) Final at the Kalinga Stadium here on Sunday.
S.V. Sunil (20th minute) and Harmanpreet Singh (54th, penalty corner) scored for the hosts who earned their second consecutive bronze medal in the HWL Final.
Appel Mark, a goalkeeper who played as a striker due to the absence of five players, scored in the 36th minute for the 2008 and 2012 Olympics winners.
Germany had Martin Haner (204 caps), Christopher Ruhr (108), Marco Miltkau (70) and Julius Meyer (32) on the bench due to illness. Timur Oruz (53) was also sidelined because of a ligament injury.
However, the lion-hearted Germans played the game on equal terms with India. They played with only 13 fit players, including the two goalkeepers. Though it proved tough for them, they remained in contention for the entire 60 minutes.
Being short on personnel didn't allow them to run and spread the field like they like to do. But with patience and tactical adjustments, they didn't allow India to make most of their numerical superiority; rotations included.
Till Sunil got India the lead, Germany had already got two penalty corners although they didn't materialise into goals.
Akashdeep Singh's sharp backhander was blocked at the left near post by Tobias Walter and the ball rebounded to Sunil, who then rolled it in for the opening goal.
Germany were determined to bag the equaliser. They earned two more penalty corners till the half-time and had 10 shots at goal -- three more than India.
They got their deserving equaliser when attacking midfielder Mats Grambusch crossed from the right to the far post where an unmarked Appel put it over a sliding Suraj Karkera to make it 1-1.
Germany, however, began to look tired in the third quarter and India kept pushing them on the backfoot to regain the lead -- which they did in the 53rd minute.
After the 50-minute mark, they earned three back-to-back penalty corners and in the final one, Harmanpreet's powerful flick got a deflection and went in at the left corner.
Germany got another penalty corner in the 56th minute but Benedikt Furk's drag-flick was kept away as India sealed the 2-1 win.
After the game, India coach Sjoerd Marijne said that they need to be more consistent. "Consistency is important in a tournament. We take our time to improve the game. We have learned lessons in every game," the Dutch tactician said.
"We have every time raised the bar. I still think that we can do better," he added.