The England Men’s Hockey team have reached the EuroHockey Championship final for the first time since 2009 after beating the world champions Germany on their home soil 5-4 in a penalty shootout.
The match was a tightly fought contest but neither team could take advantage of their chances and the 60 minutes remained 0-0 which led to the shootout.
The German team started the match with a high level of intensity and a high percentage of possession in the English D and after a free hit drilled the ball past Ollie Payne, but the English team referred the goal, and it was subsequently disallowed. The free hit wasn’t taken in the right place leading to the referral being upheld.
The English defensive line maintained their composure after the pressure of the Germans increased throughout the quarter and the first 15 minutes ended 0-0.
The second quarter started in a similar fashion with the German team pushing hard to try and break the deadlock. They had their first penalty corner in the 18th minute and the English team defended it excellently after the Germans missed the ball.
In the 21st minute, the German team earned three penalty corners in quick succession, but the English defence showed their strength to keep the German forwards at bay. The teams went back to the changing rooms at half-time with the scores remaining 0-0.
The English team started the second half of the match with a renewed hunger and started putting good passes together which led to more possession in the German area but couldn’t get the ball on target.
The third quarter continued with end-to-end action as both teams were fighting hard to secure the first goal of the game. In the final minute of the quarter, Sam Ward had a diving chance in front of goal that beat the German goalkeeper Jean-Paul Dannenburg but was saved on the line.
The match restarted with everything at stake for both teams in the last 15 minutes of the match and England had a couple of attacking movements but couldn’t take advantage of them.
With four minutes to go, Zach Wallace took down a looping ball in the German area and managed to get it in front of the goal, but the forwards couldn’t get it past Danneburg.
In the last two minutes, the German team had excellent build-up and took a shot at English goalkeeper Ollie Payne but he managed to block the ball and keep the score at 0-0.
Neither team could secure the vital goal and the teams went to a shootout which ended 5-4 to England to put them into the final for the first time in 14 years. It was goalkeeper James Mazarelo’s heroics in the shootout that confirmed England’s place in the final. He denied German captain Mats Grambusch from converting their fifth attempt and final attempt.
Player of the match, James Albery, said: “I’m slightly lost for words to be honest, it’s been a bit of a blur. It was an unbelievable game and to win it on the shootout at the end is fantastic.
“We’ve been focusing on our defence for a number of months now and Zach Jones [coach] has been leading the defensive side of our game and he expects the best and that’s what we tried to deliver tonight. To keep a clean sheet against the Germans is also really impressive.
“The shootout seems a fairly brutal way to go out after a game like that and it’s not the way we would have wanted to win the game, but we will take it. We’ve worked really hard at them and after we went out this team at the World Cup, we didn’t want that to happen again and it’s credit to the lads who have put in the work over the last few months.”
England will now face the Netherlands in the final on Sunday at 2pm BST.