The men’s final of the Unibet EuroHockey Championships 2015 will be contested between the top ranked teams in the competition, with the World and Olympic Silver medallists the Netherlands set to take on reigning European and Olympic champions Germany in what promises to be a sensational showdown this Saturday.
Electric attacker Jeroen Hertzberger netted the only goal of the game as second ranked Netherlands battled their way past a defensively excellent semi-final opponent in Ireland, while host nation England suffered a heart-breaking shoot-out defeat to third ranked Germany at the end of a breathtaking match that kept a big crowd on the edge of their seats throughout.
In the classification matches, France and Belgium were able to put some clear water between themselves and relegation as they both recorded victories. More details on Thursday’s matches can be found below.
Netherlands 1-0 Ireland
The first semi-final was a strangely quiet affair between the second-ranked Netherlands and 14th-ranked Ireland, with an early strike from Jeroen Hertzberger proving to be the difference between the two sides as the Dutch sealed their place in the Gold medal game.
Herzberger’s goal arrived in the 12th minute of the game, touching home a strike from Bob de Voogd following a period of deep defending from the Irishmen. The Green Machine were excellent in defence throughout the match, but few could deny that the Dutch were worthy winners and will now set their sights on winning a fourth European title, adding to their successes in 1983, 1987 and 2007.
After the game, Netherlands defender Mink van der Weerden said: “A win is a win, and in a semi-final that is what you want”, before going on to praise the Irish defence and in particular ace goalkeeper David Harte, who is having yet another outstanding competition.
Germany 2-2 England (3-2 SO)
The familiar story – a game of two halves and then the Germans win in a shoot-out. After an epic tussle, Markus Weise’s side prevailed against England 3-2 after normal time had ended locked at 2-2.
Mats Grambusch and Nicolas Jacobi were the heroes as the former coolly converted and the goalkeeper denied Sam Ward to seal the victory. It sets up a classic decider against the Netherlands on Saturday as they bid to win their ninth European title.
It was level pegging virtually all the way with an initial English lead cancelled out quickly before a stunning last three minutes that saw Lukas Windfeder put the Germans in front only for Ashley Jackson to equalise from the penalty spot before Germany prevailed in the shoot-out.
“We have the best ‘keeper in the world when it comes to shoot-outs,” said Germany's Christopher Rühr. “And we have the confidence that comes from winning in the big games. We are confident and looking forward to the final against the Netherlands.”
MEN’S POOL C
Russia 2-4 France
Victor Charlet scored a brace of penalty corners to help France claim a 4-2 win against Russia to keep alive their hopes of retaining their place at the top table of European hockey. Charles Masson and Alexis Fourcroy were also on target for Les Bleus, with Nikolay Yankun and Mikhail Proskuriakov netting for Russia.
Speaking after the match, Charlet said: “We are very happy to win. It was a tough game against a strong and physical team.” He also emphasised the importance of winning their final match in the Championships. “It’s very important for France to stay in the top division and for the future of French hockey.”
Spain 0-3 Belgium
From a game that was in danger of fizzling into a non-entity, the match between Spain and Belgium sparked into life in the final quarter, with Tom Boon acting the role of provider and finisher in Belgium’s 3-0 victory over their lower-ranked rivals. Despite defeat, it was still a memorable day for Spain, whose place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games was confirmed following Ireland’s loss against the Netherlands earlier in the day. To read more on this story, click here.
“We have a year to close the gap between ourselves and the top teams,” said Spain’s Jordi Carrera, looking ahead to next year’s Olympiad. “Today we couldn’t keep the ball and we were one step behind. We have a year to put that right.”
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