There is something about the Germany men’s hockey team that thrives when pushed to the walls. If you turn the clock back to the 2022 Kuala Lumpur World Cup, Germany were trailing Australia by a solitary goal early in the second half in the final but they struck twice in the second half to win their maiden World Cup 2-1. Again at the 2006 Monchengladbach World Cup (in front of their home crowd), the Honamas trailed the same opponents – Australia 1-3 midway through the second half but they clawed their was not just to be on level terms but sneaked in a late goal (with just six minutes left) to win their second World Cup 4-3. It was more or less a familiar script at the Kalinga Stadium at Bhubaneswar, the Andrew Henning-coached side were forced to summon desperate measures as they were down 0-2 almost till half-time before orchestrating a fabulous comeback to first even things up and take a lead and subsequently holding their nerves in the shootout 5-4 after Tom Boon provided Belgium a lifeline with a dying-minute goal to forced the contest beyond regulation time.
The patterns of all their three World Cup wins (2002, 2006 and 2023) are more or less same – the Black brigade have been left to do the chasing and each time they have come out on top exemplifying their steely determination and never-give-up attitude. Interestingly at the 15th World Cup, Germany have shown the hockey world ‘how comebacks are staged’ – in the quarterfinal just when they were staring at the World Cup exit door down 0-2 with just two minutes left, they struck twice via the Grambusch brothers and subsequently rode on the goalkeeping heroics of Jean-Paul Danneberg in the shootout to sneak into the semifinals, where they brought world number one Australia with a brilliant Gonzallo Peillat hat-trick in the last 17 minutes of play.
The Germany men’s hockey team set lofty standards for themselves and it was nothing short of a disaster when they missed out on a podium at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Mind you, it is not a regular thing to see the Honamas out of the podium – the Tokyo Olympics 4th place finish was their first outside-the-podium finish since the 2000 Sydney Olympics where they did not even make it to the semifinals.
Clearly, the German hockey federation needed to introspect after the Tokyo Olympics flop show – coach Kais Al Saadi was replaced a few months after the Olympics after Germany were inflicted 1-6 and 3-5 defeats by Belgium with Andre Henning, who took charge in the middle of the 2021-22 Pro League, where they finished fourth. At the ongoing 2022-23 Pro League Germany have really looked good under Andre Henning and are currently jointly on top of the points table alongside Great Britain and India.
Andre Henning deserves copious praise for the way he handed the Germany team at the 15th World Cup – it is not easy to motivate your side when they are on the brink of elimination. Orchestrating comebacks on three back-to-back games tell a lot about this Mats Grambusch-captained side that have so much flair all around.
The Andrew Henning-coached side have won the World Cup after a hiatus of 17 years and have left no one in doubt that they would red-hot favourities to win the gold at the 2024 Paris Olympics.