There’s one question on the lips of most teams competing at the Hockey World Cup: What has Germany been up to?
Such has been the secrecy over the preparations for the quadrennial even that, on the eve of the tournament, an Australian hockey player wondered what the Olympic bronze medalists will unleash when they step on the turf at the Kalinga Stadium. A member of Dutch coaching staff also joked about spying the team’s preparations.
“It’s good to have such mystery around us, no?” laughed striker Florian Fuchs.
Germany’s preparation for the Hockey World Cup has been shrouded in secrecy – more by accident than design.
After playing the World League Finals at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar last December, Germany have barely played any international hockey.
They traditionally do not compete at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and were declined a wild card for the FIH Men’s Champions Trophy in Breda last June. It means that among the top contenders for this World Cup, Germany are the least ‘scrutinised.’
“There weren’t many tournaments to play. And I think because we have played less, many teams will perhaps not have had the chance to scout our players. But I don’t think it matters much. Our players have been active at the club and continental level so all teams would have done their homework,” Fuchs said.
Spadework for the World Cup
Germany have changed their approach to preparing for the World Cup this year. Going into the previous edition at The Hague, the Germans trained together every week and played club matches on the weekends.
That, Fuchs said, left the players exhausted by the time the tournament began and they eventually finished sixth – their worst performance ever at the Hockey World Cup.
“Four years ago, we trained a lot during the week and everyone was exhausted. So this time, we changed our strategy and it seems to be working. We are all mentally fresh, we figured,” Fuchs says.
Instead of training together every week, Fuchs said they have decentralized their programme.
“We trained a lot together during the summer and then had a break because of the club season. Unlike the Dutch or the Belgian teams, we didn’t train every week. It was more decentralized and in cities all over Germany. Germany is bigger and you can’t meet every week. You have to play Bundesliga every weekend too so it’s not possible,” he said.
Fuchs said the group is happy with the progress made in a ‘short period of time’ and are confident of improving their performance from four years ago. However, there remains a small concern for them.
At the Hockey World League Finals last year, the Germans were hit by a mystery illness. Almost half-a-dozen players were ruled out of action and they played the bronze medal match against India without any substitutes while their goalkeeper Mark Appel was forced to start as a centre forward to ensure they had 11 players on field to start the match.
To make sure such a scenario does not arise again, Fuchs said they have taken extra precautions this time, like taking medication before leaving for Bhubaneswar.
He, however, added they look back at that match fondly for the heroic performance put up by the team.
“That was a crazy match. We derive a lot of inspiration from it and hope to repeat a similar performance against a packed stadium this time,” Fuchs said.
World Cup Squadron
Germany come into the tournament with one of the youngest and most inexperienced squads. The two-time world champions have a squad with an average age of 25 and 12 out of the 18 members in the squad will be competing in this tournament for the first time. Fuchs insisted the inexperience will not be a disadvantage and added that all players are feeling mentally fresh.
Germany will take on Pakistan in their first match on 1 December, before facing Holland on 5 December and finishing the group stage by playing Malaysia on 9 December.
Germany Team and Player Stats:
- World Rank : 6
- Last Appearance: 2014 (6th)
- Head Coach : Stefan Kermas
- Goalkeepers : Mark Appel
- Most Capped Player : Tobias Hauke (297)
- Youngest Player : Timm Herzbruch & Johannes Grobe (21)
- Oldest Player : Tobias Hauke (31)
Full Squad: Mark Appel, Tobias Walter,Florian Fuchs, Benedikt Furk, Mats Grambusch, Tom Grambusch, Johannes Grobe, Martin Haner, Tobias Hauke, Timm Herzbruch, Dieter Linnekogel, Marco Miltkau, Matthias Muller, Dan Nguyen Luong, Christopher Ruhr, Ferdinand Weinke, Nikias Wellen, Lukas Windfeder