Germany head coach Andre Henning on Saturday said his side will have to put up a brave effort and play risky hockey to stop the rampaging run of Belgium in the World Cup summit clash on Sunday.
After winning a silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics, Belgium went on to win the 2018 World at the same venue here and then clinched gold in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
“We played against them in Pro League in Argentina, one win and one loss. Played them here and it was a draw. Seems to be very close on an eye level. My biggest respect for Belgium with what they have achieved in the last few years. They are clearly the best team in the world at the moment,” Henning said at the pre-final press conference.
“So, it will be a tough match, we will have to challenge them. All of their players are world class but we will focus on our strength and qualities.” Henning feels Belgium don’t have any weakness.
“It does not seem that they are vulnerable at the moment, weak or disadvantaged. They are still very strong. But we want to challenge them, how long that go (on dominating). We will like to stop that, in a most respectful way.
“We have to be brave, offensive and play risky hockey as well. We have to bring all our qualities on the pitch. Then only we will be able to challenge a team like Belgium.” Henning said his team will try to repeat their strong semifinal performance against Australia, whom they had beaten 4-3, to challenge the defending champions on Sunday.
“Against England (in quarterfinals) we did not play our best hockey for 55 minutes, but that was because of England mostly, they defended extremely well and they had an amazing tournament. Luckily, we played our best hockey in the last five minutes,” he said.
“The match against Australia was a little bit different, because we played extremely well and strong. It was a well deserved win. We defended well, had a lot of chances. We would aim to perform like that tomorrow. We will have a chance.
“Our high press was really good against Australia. We have to be good in the first line and our forwards are working a lot, running metres are amazing against Australia. Running wise one of the best games ever since we have GPS running data.” Germany came back twice in the tournament from two-goal down to force a win against England and Australia but Henning said it was not an ideal situation.
“I would prefer to be not a goal down two minutes before the end of match. So, there is something to improve,” the coach said.
“We have done very well in defending in our zone, that is very strong and we have improved on that. That is something we want to do, to be kind of typical German tournament team and take steps game by game.” Asked if his team would like to keep the ball against Belgium on Sunday, Henning said defending and counter-attacking will be the main focus.
“Hockey is now about defending, counter-attacking and the game is getting faster and faster. We have a lot of rapid players, our counter attacks are very strong.
“Germany traditionally is or was a team which like to have ball possession and we will not change this culture 100 per cent. It has to be a good mixture. So we will like to have the possession and good build up but our defending has a massive focus this year and also counter attacking.” Belgium head coach Michel van den Heuvel said his team will have to guard against Germany’s ability to have a strong finishing.
“We have been playing them a couple of times last couple of months and they have grown game by game. As a natural character, Germany is able to finish well. We had a saying in the past that we always win against German when they are in the bus.
“We also have a strong group which can handle pressure. It will be an interesting clash between two fantastic teams and fantastic individuals. It will be a good advertisement of hockey.” Belgium captain Felix Denayer said the success of the side was due to the effort of the team, the support staff and togetherness of the group for a long time.
“This group has been together for a long time even before 2016 (even before winning silver in Rio Olympics). Our best player is the team and that is our strength.”