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Australia hold the aces: German skipper

Muller and four other captains who addressed the media on Friday agreed that Australia, the 1986 champions, were the favourites. They won the Champions Trophy at home with ease, coming back from a 1-3 deficit to beat Germany., reports B Shrikant.

india Updated: Feb 27, 2010 00:43 IST
B Shrikant

Will Germany complete a hattrick of World Cup titles? That is the question foremost on the mind as the Hero Honda FIH Hockey World Cup gets rolling on Sunday.

Having won the title in 2002 at Kuala Lumpur and Monchengladbach, at home, four years later, Markus Weise’s boys are hoping to become the first team to win three titles in a row.

Besides Germany, Pakistan and the Netherlands have successfully defended the title but none has won it three in a row.

In the last eight years, the German efficiency and systemic play has ruled over the flamboyant, but faltering, Pakistanis, technical wizardry of the Dutch and attacking flair of Australia.

This time, the Germans are not thinking about the hattrick. “We are going through a rebuilding phase and have a young and inexperienced squad. We are targeting a semifinal spot,” captain Maximillan Muller said on Friday.

Muller and four other captains who addressed the media on Friday agreed that Australia, the 1986 champions, were the favourites. They won the Champions Trophy at home with ease, coming back from a 1-3 deficit to beat Germany.

Ric Charlesworth’s team, which includes a number of experienced players, is in a tough group with World No. 3 Spain, No. 6 England, No. 7 Pakistan and hosts India.

“They have the hunger in their eyes, we could see it during training. But Australia have faltered in important matches in the past. We hope we can exploit that frailty if we meet them this time,” said Muller.

Muller said the newly-laid turf at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium could pose problems for the players. “The turf is hard and deep and the ball is bouncing. Defending will be a big problem and we will see a lot of penalty corners,” he said.

Muller said they would miss seasoned penalty corner expert Christopher Zeller, who is skipping the event to appear for law exams. “Hockey doesn’t pay us much and we can’t leave studies or work. We will miss him but we have the players to fill in the gap,” he said.