Niklas Wellen’ tournament started when he became a father. Eventually Germany became world champion. On that journey, World Cup MVP and World Cup Finals anchored Germany’s final performance on the road to the title. On a busy Sunday night in Bhubaneswar under the lights of Kalinga, Wellen led the front row, defending bravely half his team was fouled, recovered the ball, scored once and beat goalkeeper twice on penalties as Germany beat Belgium 5-4 in the tiebreak. It was a final for the ages.
Unlike the previous two main finals, which, as is usual with finals, were handled with caution, this one was insane. Belgium took a 2-0 lead early on, but Germany, managed a remarkable comeback and not only equalized in the final quarter, but also made it 3-2. Belgium then gave the Germans a taste of their own medicine by equalizing on penalties with a minute to go. Once again, the teams were inseparable after their respective first five attempts.
This time it was Belgium who came back two goals behind to make it 3-3. As they did at the end of regulation time when the final ended in sudden death. When 20-year-old Jean-Paul Dannenberg rejected the Tanguy Cosyns, a swing match that seemed to go on forever was finally decided. The Germans ran onto the pitch and pounced on their young goalkeeper. He was only capped for his eighth cap, and the players locked themselves in tight hugs. Screaming madly that they couldn’t believe they had come to win the gold.
Ten years ago, Wellen scored a hat-trick in the World Junior Championship final when Germany scored on Indian soil. On Sunday evening, seven players from the2013 vintage under the guidance of the same coach, Andre Henning, marked Germany’s return to the hockey elite. After years of underperformance, this is the giants’ first major European title since Olympic gold in London: They won Olympic bronze in 2016, but Henning doesn’t care.
Henning is a lawyer by training and is hailed in Germany as the amalgamation of Bayern Munich manager Julian Nagelsmann and Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp, an early head coach, as well as for the way he plays their teams. And over the past three weeks, the comparisons to Nagelsmann and Klopp have only intensified, although Henning didn’t feel comfortable with it. Gone are the days when Germany was efficient but adventurous. Henning’s Germany has become a difficult country. -Metal, counterattack unit, but has retained one key trait, rather recovered: late comebacks.
After taking a 2-0 lead, Belgium tried to defend their place. It was less about parking the bus and more about taking fewer risks, although they continued to jostle their opponents for space. Germany captain Mats Gram Busch half-joked that “it’s not nice” to see high pressing from Belgium, which they used aggressively to shut off all German attacking avenues for most of the first half.
But tailored as the game progressed Germany began to pass the ball. the crosses, but more than ‘s ball movement, it was his run off the ball that pulled the Belgian players out of position. Even if they ventured out of their zone for even a split second, it was enough for Germany to seize that space and create opportunities.
Waves once again made an impact on the game. He pulled the strings behind the scenes in the quarter-finals as Germany performed a miracle. In the semi-finals, he added the finishing touch to give Germany another unlikely win. And on Sunday, Wellen’s goal, which opened the scoring for Germany, broke Belgium’s resistance in the Hockey World cup final.