Germany’s connection with Bhubaneswar deepened last Sunday when the 2002 and 2006 champion won its third men’s Hockey World Cup at the Kalinga Stadium. Incidentally, Germany had claimed its last major title, the 2014 Champions Trophy, at Odisha’s capital — the modern part of the city which was designed by German architect Otto Konigsberger in 1946. The Die Honamas equalled Australia and the Netherlands’ triple crowns and remained one behind Pakistan. Germany, which had qualified for the World Cup by being runner-up in the Euro hockey championships and had lost to India in the Tokyo Olympics bronze medal match in 2021, was not among the favourites. It relied on its innate grit and resilience to script come-from-behind wins against England in the quarterfinals, the mighty Australia in the semifinals and 2018 edition’s champion Belgium in the final. Two of these, including the one in the summit clash, came through penalty shootouts. With a fine mix of promise and pedigree, also comprising seven players — including ‘Player of the final’ and ‘Best player’ and ‘Best Forward’ of the tournament Niklas Wellen — from the 2014 Champions Trophy winning side, Germany looked a cohesive unit. Drag-flicker Gonzalo Peillat, who played for Argentina in 2018, contributed significantly by scoring important goals in German colours.
While Belgium’s dream of retaining its champion’s tag was shattered, Australia’s aim to win a record-equalling fourth gold received a setback as it returned empty handed after 1998. The Netherlands settled for a consolation bronze. The European nations’ domination continued but their Asian counterparts disappointed. South Korea, the best Asian side, took the eighth place. India, joint ninth with Argentina, recorded its lowest finish in the four World Cups it hosted. It resulted in the exit of chief coach Graham Reid, who had led India to a historic bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics. Overall, the impeccably staged World Cup in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela, which boasts of the largest hockey stadium in terms of seating capacity, turned out to be a close affair with 11 of 44 matches either finishing as draws or going into shootouts. An average of 5.66 goals per match was the highest ever in a men’s World Cup. The successful conduct of the event, featuring packed houses for many games, has enhanced India’s reputation as an organizer of elite competitions and set a benchmark for Belgium and the Netherlands, the joint hosts of the 2026 men and women World Cups. At home, Hockey India, led by former captain Dilip Tirkey, should capitalise on the atmosphere created by this iconic event to rejuvenate the sport.
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