GERMANY 4 (3)
Jan-Marco Montag 6 (PC)
Oliver Korn 11 (F)
Martin Haner 31 (PC)
Linus Butt 60 (PC)
ENGLAND 1 (1)
Richard Smith 19 (PC)
In their first World Cup semi final since 1986, England went down 4-1 to a well drilled, resolute and efficient German side going for a record third consecutive World title. Richard Smith’s 19th minute goal gave England hope of a comeback after going 2-0 behind but a combination of Germany’s near impenetrable back line and the inspirational form of Matthias Witthaus and Martin Haner proved too much on the day.
England will now go into Saturday’s bronze medal match against either Australia or the Netherlands in the knowledge that they can still return home with their heads held high, securing the country’s best ever World Cup result on foreign soil.
Much was made prior to the match of the fact the game was a re-match of the 2009 EuroHockey Nations Championships final, which England won 5-2, but going into the semi final both sides had suffered their respective injury problems. England were missing three of that European Cup winning side: stalwart Richard Mantell, who flew home after his ankle break against Pakistan, his brother Simon Mantell and Matt Daly who were forced to withdraw from the squad through injury prior to the tournament. For their part, Germany turned to reserve goalkeeper Tim Jessault two games previously after an injury to Max Weinhold.
England’s only previous experience at this stage of a World Cup came in 1986 when they beat Germany 3-2 on home soil at Willesden en route to the final against Australia. Head Coach Jason Lee made two changes to the side that started the final Pool B fixture against Spain. In came Reading’s Iain Mackay and Surbiton’s James Tindall from the start as Bowdon’s Alastair Brogdon and Reading’s Jonty Clarke dropped to the bench.
Early errors from Ben Hawes, Alistair Wilson and Adam Dixon on the bouncy pitch did little to settle the nerves as England tried to settle into possession and they fell behind from Germany’s first penalty corner of the match. Matthias Witthaus won the penalty corner from which Jan-Marco Montag gave Germany the lead after just six minutes, netting the Germans’ tenth penalty corner goal of the tournament. His flick low to James Fair’s right came off the glove of the Cannock goalkeeper, down into the ground and across the line.
One of the strengths of England’s World Cup performances has been how the squad has reacted to adversity, often netting immediately after conceding a goal. Once again they looked to respond quickly and Barry Middleton came close with a flick on from the near post that went just wide of the far post with Iain Mackay launching himself full length in an attempt to get there. Ashley Jackson then looked to cause problems with a driving run into the German circle that came to an end under pressure from another former East Grinstead player, Martin Haner.
Bowdon forward Alastair Brogdon thought for a moment that he had equalised in the ninth minute when, after beating two German defenders in the inside left channel, he lifted the ball over the goalkeeper Tim Jessault from the tightest of angles and into the net. Unfortunately for England, umpire Tim Pullman ruled it out after Glenn Kirkham had collided with the goalkeeper just as Brodgon shot.
In the 11th minute England’s task became significantly more difficult when Oliver Korn latched on to a deflected pass in towards the penalty spot as he added his own deflection to take the ball beyond James Fair to make it 2-0 to Germany.
Since the opening goal England had looked to press Germany high up the park and in the 19th minute they were rewarded with their first penalty corner after the ball hit the foot of German defender Linus Butt inside the circle. With Richard Mantell missing and Ashley Jackson taking a breather on the bench the responsibility for the corner fell to Loughborough Students’ Richard Smith. Rob Moore’s pull out to the top of the circle had pin-point accuracy and Smith’s low flick straight down the middle of the goal found its way under the left leg of Tim Jessault to pull one back for England. The goal was Smith’s fourth for England since making his senior international debut in May last year.
Throughout the tournament in Delhi James Fair has been one of England’s many heroes but he saved his best for 22nd minute of this match. From Germany’s second penalty corner of the game Fair saved the initial low flick from the top of the circle with his right foot. The block fell to Witthaus right in front of goal just two metres out and he looked certain to score his third of the tournament until Fair’s World Class intervention. Springing up from the initial save, he thrust out his left glove, diving across to tip Witthaus’ flick wide and maintain the 2-1 scoreline.
Martin Haner then passed a penalty corner wide of the post and England looked to alleviate the pressure through Ben Hawes’ long aerial pass down the right. A couple of free hits outside the Germany circle came to nothing though and in the 31st minute Germany re-established the two goal advantage from their fourth corner. Using an alternative option, Germany moved the ball right from the top of the circle to where Haner had time to pick his spot, placing a flick into the top right corner to make it 3-1.
The half time hooter came at a good time for England with Germany looking increasingly dangerous.
Two minutes into the second half and Germany had to deal with two English efforts as their defence first blocked a cross from Beeston’s Ali Wilson before keeping out Ashley Jackson’s shot from the top of the circle.
Germany captain Maximillian Muller then produced an excellent touch on his own penalty spot to divert Glenn Kirkham’s pass into the circle away from the waiting James Tindall at the back post as England continued to probe.
There then followed a lower tempo spell as Germany’s marking limited England’s attacking opportunities.
In the 45th minute, Germany looked to unlock the English defence around the back but Adam Dixon was alert to the danger. A minute later England were given an advantage when Jan Philipp Rabente went in hard on Richard Alexander and the German was shown the green card, earning himself a two minute suspension. With the numerical advantage England pressed again through Ashley Jackson. Working along the right baseline his tantalising pass across the face of goal was clipped clear by Muller again with Ali Brogdon lurking.
Midway through the half, Reading’s Iain Mackay could do little with a weak off balance push shot into the pads of Tim Jessulat and James Tindall came close with a reverse stick effort that flew just over the bar, but the score remained 3-1.
On 55 minutes, James Fair had to save after Martin Haner had fed Christoph Menke on the baseline. Menke’s cross was cut out by Richard Smith but he could not clear and the shot that came in on Fair’s left post was comfortably dealt with by the 29 year old. Menke forced Fair into another save four minutes later with a shot on the turn.
With just over ten minutes remaining Germany referred a decision not to give a penalty corner to the video umpire. The decision to refer proved to be the right one after the replay showed the ball had come off the forearm of Richard Smith and not his hand as the umpire initially thought. Germany’s corner came up in the middle of the circle and another corner was awarded, to the frustration of James Fair, who referred that decision to the video umpire. The award stood though and from the penalty corner Germany scored their fourth goal to put the game beyond England. Fair got down well to save Haner’s low effort but Linus Butt, coming in from the side after pushing the corner out, reacted quickest to slap the ball high into the net.
Two minutes later, Germany threatened again as Martin Zwicker and Christoph Menke opened up the English defence with a pacey one-two but Menke’s effort from the penalty spot went wide of the goal.
England finally found a way through the German defence with five minutes remaining after good close control from James Tindall as he waltzed through the middle of the back line. He in turn found Barry Middleton in front of goal but Tim Jessulat did well to block Middleton’s close range shot.
England lost Surbiton forward Rob Moore to a yellow card and five minute suspension with just under five minutes remaining, meaning that they finished the match with ten players, as did Germany who lost Philip Witte to a green card shortly after.
Right to the end of the match both sides pushed hard and James Fair had one more telling intervention to make as he saved from Martin Zwicker in the final minute of the game.
At the final whistle England’s players were understandably disappointed to have lost, watching on as Germany celebrated reaching their third consecutive World Cup final.
Captain Barry Middleton, who will have the responsibility of picking his teammates back up for Saturday’s bronze medal match, said afterwards, “Obviously we’re very disappointed. We found it difficult to break down a resolute German defence and the difference today was the way they played in both circles.”
Head Coach Jason Lee also spoke of Germany’s tight defence, which has now conceded just ten goals in six matches in Delhi: “Germany’s deep defence was outstanding today. I was proud of some of the things we did today but you can’t afford to give a team like Germany a two goal start. Ultimately we paid the price for a sloppy first ten minutes.”
Lee though is still tremendously proud of what his team has achieved, and still can achieve, in Delhi: “Today was a game we missed the three guys we’ve lost to injury but I’m still very proud of the squad.”
Team Manager Andy Halliday added: “We now face a test of character to get ourselves back up for the bronze medal game on Saturday but we’ll look forward to the challenge which that will present.”
The bronze medal match takes place at 10:05am GMT on Saturday 13 March. The match will mark the 100th appearances for England of Surbiton pair James Tindall and Richard Alexander, both of whom won their 99th caps against Germany. Ashley Jackson will win his 50th England cap on Saturday.