Bhubaneswar: Only three teams — Pakistan, Germany and Australia — have back-to-back titles in the FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup. On Sunday, Belgium, who won the 2018 title, is hoping to become the fourth team to do so when they take on Germany in the final of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 at the Kalinga Stadium here,
While reigning Olympic and World Champion Belgium are hoping to capture their second title, Germany will be trying to regain the title they had won at consecutive editions in 2002 at Kuala Lumpur and in 2006 at home in Mönchengladbach, joining Netherlands and Australia, who will clash for the third place earlier in the day, as teams to win the World Cup thrice.
Both Belgium and Germany, who were in the same Pool B in the preliminary league and drew their match, had reached the final with fighting displays, coming back to win matches they were on the verge of defeat.
Belgium, the defending champions, came back from a goal deficit twice in what was a rematch of the 2018 World Cup final, before overcoming Oranje 3-2 in the shoot-out — just like in 2018 — after scoring late in the third quarter to force a 2-2 draw in regulation time during which forward Tom Boon failed to convert a match-winning penalty stroke.
Germany came back from a two-goal deficit to score a 4-3 win against World No. 1 Australia with Argentine-turned-German penalty corner expert Gonzalo Peillat scoring a hat-trick.
Both teams capitalise on missed chances by their opponents to come back strongly and make it to the summit clash.
The Netherlands made 17 entries into the circle and six penalty corners — while Belgium had only three PCs. The Red Lions had 10 shots at goal and also failed to convert a penalty stroke.
Germany made 33 circle entries in a dominant display and earned 13 penalty corners, as compared to 18 circle entries and 7 PCs for Australia. Germany had 14 shots at the goal while Australia managed only 10.
In the final on Sunday, both Belgium and Germany will be hoping to make the most of their chances.
The Red Lions had landed in Bhubaneswar just over two weeks back as a squad of ageing stars who have been together for nearly a decade. Though they have introduced some young players in the last couple of years, their core is still the same old players.
In contrast, Germany have a young side with seasoned players like Christopher Ruhr, Martin Zwicker, skipper Mats Grambusch and Niklas Wellen to tie them together into a strong unit.
In Gonzalo Peillat, who had played over a100 matches for Argentina and was part of the team that won the Olympic gold medal in Rio 2016, they have a potential match winner.
The two teams are evenly matched; the greater experience of Belgium players gives them a slight edge.
In the pre-match press conference, Germany coach Andre Henning said taking the Belgians lightly for being ageing stars would be a big mistake.