SPORT

An engrossing final on the cards

HITMAN:Jan-Marco Montag (second from right) symbolises Germany's striking power.   | Photo Credit: — PHOTO: Rajeev Bhat

Hockey Correspondent

New Delhi: The climax of the Hero Honda hockey World Cup unfolds on Saturday. An engrossing finale of the 13-day fiesta is in the offing from the two best exponents on the contemporary scene — Germany and Australia.

Defending champion Germany, also the Olympic champion, is on the threshold of a hat-trick, outclassing the same opponent in the two previous editions at Kuala Lumpur in 2002 and Monchengladbach in 2006.

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Germany has an unbeaten record in the pool with two drawn games. After a somewhat wonky start against Korea, the German progress has been amazing.

Systematically, they tightened loose ends in passing, trapping and scoring. Every move looks calibrated to perfection.

Age factor

Another factor is age. It is the youngest combination, with an average age of 24. There is a remarkable freshness. The defenders are on their toes all the time. Skipper Max Muller emerges as role model for defenders — alert, athletic and adept in interceptions and clearances. The midfield that shuffles itself in amazing co-ordination has been a treat to watch.

Jan-Marco Montag symbolises Germany's striking power. Whether it is a penalty corner or a deft deflection, he shows a masterly consistency. Oliver Korn, Philip Witte and the seasoned Matthias Witthaus are rebound specialists, a nightmare to the goalkeepers. They give the team a balance and enormous vibrancy.

Ric Charlesworth acknowledges the virtues of the German team. But the Aussie coach believes, and firmly, his boys can deliver. Individually and collectively, the Aussies are capable of maintaining the tenor and tempo almost throughout. Jamie Dwyer works like a beaver. He is well supported by Glenn Turner, Grant Schubert and Desmond Abbott.

Trump card

However, the trump card for Charlesworth is the lanky drag flicker, Luke Doerner, who may well be the match-winner.

Which way the final will go is the million-dollar question. Will the Aussie dream of regaining the trophy, last won in 1986 at Willesden, become a reality? Is Germany destined to become the only team to record a hat-trick of World Cup triumphs? It's a fascinating puzzle, to be resolved on Saturday.