Germany stormed into the semifinals of the Hero Honda FIH Hockey World Cup on Tuesday defeating a resilient New Zealand 5-2 to finish the league stage with 11 points.
The defending champions began in a typically aggressive manner. After a draw against Holland in the previous match, the Germans knew only a win would seal their last-four berth.
A 15th minute field goal — a gentle push by Cristoph Menke — opened the account for the defending champions. It was followed by a penalty-corner conversion by Florian Fuchs in the 28th minute.
With the New Zealand defence showing signs of crumbling, Germany controlled the midfield for most part of the first half.
With nothing to lose, the second half saw New Zealand coming out all guns blazing. The hitherto mediocre forward line repeatedly broke through the German defence and in the process left their own defence unattended.
The Kiwis suffered another setback when Phillip Witte struck one past goalkeeper Kyle Pontifax in the 47th minute. But just when it seemed all over for the Kiwis, the team led by skipper Dean Couzins, mobilised its frontline and hit back with two goals in the space of three minutes.
Shea McAleese struck the first goal with amazing power following a penalty-corner rebound from the goalkeeper’s pads. Soon, an unmarked Nicholas Wilson, on the right, scored the second following a well-coordinated mid-field run that beat four German defenders.
Germany took quite a while to quell the Kiwi fight-back but once they achieved it, the reigning champions were back in business. With New Zealand defence conceding critical penalty-corners — two of which were converted — the Germans were more than happy to accept the offerings.
The German skipper, Maximillan Muller, admitted the game was too close for his liking.
“I am not 100 per cent happy with how we played today. We were put under pressure despite a good first half. Going into the next round, we will definitely examine the mistakes we made today,” he said after the match.