Saturday, July 21, 2012

In the Spotlight.... Germany Men

'In the Spotlight' is a series that will profile each of the 24 participating teams at the London Olympic Games. It will provide a glimpse of what to expect as each squad begins its London quest. Between now and the Olympic opening ceremony a new team will be featured every 2-3 days. Today we feature the men's national team of Germany.

The Basics:
Germany is currently the #2 team in the world with 1988 points, 200 points behind the current World Champion from Australia. But the Germans have Olympic bragging rights over the Aussies as the reigning Olympic gold medallists after topping Spain 1-0 in Beijing’s Final. Germany has collected six Olympic medals, two Gold (2008, 1992), one Silver (1936) and three Bronze (2004, 1956, 1928). West Germany claimed one Gold (1972) and two Silver (1988, 1984) medals. On top of the Olympic glory, Germany was the World Champion in 2002 and 2006.

The Road to London:
Germany qualified for the London Olympics as the European champion. They won the EuroHockey Championship 2011 on home turf in Monchengladbach, defeating the Netherlands 4-2 in the Final. It was arguably the toughest continental championship to earn the direct qualification to the Games.
Players to Watch:
Midfielder Moritz Fürste plays a key role on the team. The 27-year-old returned from a knee injury in March and captained his club UHC Hamburg to its third Euro Hockey League title in just five years. Fürste is Olympic, World and European Champion.
With 356 caps, striker Matthias Witthaus holds the German record. It will be the fourth Olympics for the storied veteran. Defender Timo Wess made his comeback at the 2011 Champions Trophy in Auckland. The 30-year-old took a break after he captained Germany to the gold medal in Beijing. Although Wess is now back, Müller will be the team captain. 

Markus Weise has served as a coach in two Olympics, both with a golden result. In 2004, he led the German women to Olympic Gold before he claimed Gold with the men’s team in Beijing. The 49-year-old is the first coach to win an Olympic Gold medal with a men’s and a women’s hockey team. Weise moved over to the men’s program in November 2006. Born in Mannheim, he started playing hockey at TSV Mannheim. He now lives in Hamburg. 
Germany sends a very experienced team to London, including ten gold medallists from Beijing. The Germans have world-class players at all positions, including Max Weinhold in goal, the defenders Max Müller, Martin Häner, Philipp Zeller and Timo Wess, Benjamin Wess , Moritz Fürste, Tobias Hauke and Oliver Korn in midfield and Matthias Witthaus, Christopher Zeller, Florian Fuchs and Thilo Stralkowski in the attacking line. Coach Weise said: "The fact that we can fill several positions doubly, with almost equivalent players, says a lot about the high quality that we have in this squad.“ Germany plays a well-structured game with dangerous attacks, a strong defence and a strong fitness level.

The danger of the first penalty corner shot is a weakness. Flicker Christopher Zeller suffered several injuries recently. After his recovering from a foot injury he suffered a broken finger at the Test Event in May. It will be interesting to see if Zeller is ready for London. “We are actually not at full strength with our first shot. If your shot is not at 100 percent, this limits your options suffer because if the opponents do not fear the first shot, they can defend more easily”, Weise said. Leading up to the games, Germany will focus on its first penalty corner shot.
Crystal Ball:
As the defending gold medallists and #2 team in the world, Germany is clearly a favourite to win in London. In the past they have produced their best performance in key matches. Most recently, they went unbeaten at the 2011 European championship and won the London Test Event in May defeating top-ranked Australia twice. With the Netherlands, New Zealand, Korea, Belgium and India as their preliminary round opponents, it would be a surprise if Germany fails to grab a Semi Final spot.