Birsa Munda rooting for him, custodian Danneberg the difference for Germany vs strangely restrained Australia

Birsa Munda rooting for him, custodian Danneberg the difference for Germany vs strangely restrained Australia

German goalkeeper Jean-Paul Danneberg (back to camera, 74) was the star of the night as he brought off save after save giving World Champions Germany a narrow 1-0 victory over Australia in the Pro League being played at Rourkela. (Photo: Hockey India)

Off and on, like staccato fire, the Aussies pinged off shots but Germany’s Jean-Paul Danneberg, a hulk of a man, the goalkeeper, who could do no wrong on the night kept them away, making a minimum of six saves in the 3rd and 4th quarter.

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  • Danneberg, a hulk of a man, was brilliant on the night, making a minimum of six saves in keeping Australia away and also getting three points for Germany
  • Low-scoring but technically a match to savour as Germany tightened the midfield, at times sitting back to absorb the Aussie attacks knowing Danneberg was in tremendous form
  • Australia lacked physicality and were strangely restrained, not using pace and skill, for a team that goes straight for the jugular – it was all very surprising

The Goalkeeper is King might as well be the catch-phrase of the Australia vs Germany Pro League match where Germany squeezed in an early goal, fought through a second quarter, and then saw off a frantic Australia trying to run circles around their defence. Off and on, like staccato fire, the Aussies pinged of shots but Germany’s Jean-Paul Danneberg, a hulk of a man, the goalkeeper, who could do no wrong on the night kept them away, making a minimum of six saves in the 3rd and 4th quarter. Danneberg, gave credit to his team, and also to the fans who had again turned up in large numbers, approximately 15,000, for inspiring him.

Even though the World Cup and the Pro League are vastly different in intensity, tactical play, selection of players, Germany, ensured a second consecutive win over the Australians, the previous win coming in the World Cup semi-finals where Australia had led 2-0 before Germany equalised with the Aussies leading again 3-2, Germany equalising at 3-3 before getting the match-winner with eight seconds to go.

None of that seven-goal drama was seen at the Birsa Munda on a Saturday night but for those who zone in on technical aspects of the game, despite a 1-0 scoreline, this was a night to savour. Germany created enough, tightened the midfield, later in the game sat back, gave a few PCs away in the 4th quarter emboldened by the fact that Danneberg was in tremendous form. It was his night.

Australia’s Ben Staines (left) trying to get past the German defence in a Pro League encounter on Saturday at the Birsa Munda stadium in Rourkela. Germany beat Australia 1-0.(Photo: Hockey India)

Another Australian of Indian origin, Anand Gupte, made his debut, though slightly a quieter one. Gupte, a tall full back, was steady at the back and even had a chance with a PC, Australia’s 4th, a low flick which on some other day would have found the target. But Danneberg was inspired today.

Gupte was ‘privileged, honoured’ to make his debut against India in India made all the more memorable by his mother, Rebekah, flying in from Canberra and his grandmother (Father Nitin Gupte’s mother) also came in from Pune.

Germany’s defence with Mathias Muller, Niklas Bosserhoff, Michel Struthoff and Tom Grambusch was brilliant. They used the space, spreading out at the back to keep the Australian’s away from playing their natural game. Australia plays fantastic hockey when they have the ball but with the Germans playing tight in the midfield, keeping possession and winning turn-overs, Australia appeared a frustrated bunch.

It was only in the 4th quarter, when Germany fell back a bit to defend that Australia got the space. On any other given day, they would have got the equaliser, forcing the match into a shoot-out but the Germans weren’t only resolute, they marked the Australian forward extremely well, giving no space in the striking circle to take reverse hits or snap shots. The ones that came off were saved brilliantly by Danneberg.

Australia could have played upfield in the 3rd quarter. But they were content to sit at the back waiting for a counter-attack, which was surprising. There was a lack of physicality, a strange restraint in using pace and skill, for a team that goes straight for the jugular – each of these traits were missing.

The 4th quarter was closest Australia came to finding an equaliser or trying to play the ‘Australian’ way. Craig Marais had a wonderful opportunity, but his reverse hit was saved by Danneberg. In the course of the last quarter, Danneberg brought off four saves. With the German captain Mats Grambusch given the yellow card, Australia forced their 5th PC with eight seconds to go. Tim Howard’s slap-shot was meant for Nathan Ephramus to deflect but the forward dived a fraction off a second late as Danneberg came forward to take it on the pads.

Germany gained all the three points. On Sunday, India takes on Australia at the Birsa Munda.

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