An interaction with German Hockey coach Andre Henning
Picture Credit - Hockey Canada

Dark-horses Germany aim to reclaim top spot at FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup 2023

January 9, 2023

Honomas, as the Germany men’s national field hockey team are fondly called, landed in Bhubaneswar on January 7, 2023, six days before the start of the FIH Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup 2023. Without wasting any time, they took to the iconic Kalinga Stadium turf the same evening to indulge in a light training session. The team worked on some passing drills and penalty corner routines. After the practice, their coach Andre Henning spoke to SportsKhabri about his preparations and goals ahead of the biggest hockey carnival of the year. 

“I had come [sic] here last year with a developmental team in the FIH Pro League. It was my first time in Bhubaneswar and I loved it. This time around, I’ve got a team that has done brilliantly over the last year. We’ve got good caps in our bag, some experience and we won 13 out of 16 matches played, so we’re well prepared.”

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Germany have been grouped alongside defending World and Olympic Champions Belgium and the two Asian giants in Japan and South Korea in Pool B. Surprisingly, they played all the three teams last month in a practice tournament in Cadiz, Spain. 

Henning found it funny. “You don’t usually see that in sports [playing all pool opponents just before the World Cup],” he said. “But it worked out well for us. Coincidentally, this tournament in Cadiz was planned even before the World Cup draw, so it was good that all teams were there. We didn’t know Japan or [South] Korea well. We had watched videos, did our analysis, but you have to play them to know them. Finally, our forward players had an interesting outing against them. We scored a lot of goals and hope that happens again.”

“To win, we may have to implement a new culture, but we will chase them” – German coach Andre Henning on facing Belgium in the pool stage.

Like most fans, Henning too was most excited for the game against Belgium. “It’s always a pleasure playing such games. They are the best team and we need to be smart playing against them. We want to challenge them as much as possible. It is going to be tough for us but we need to be okay with them having possession. It’s against the German hockey philosophy because it’s typical for us to control games, but I’m fine if Belgium have possession as long as they don’t attack our circle too much. The boys have to chase the ball and focus on being defensively solid. To be successful you have to implement a new culture, and against them we have to execute it to perfection.”

While Germany have a rich history of medals at the Olympic Games and World Cups, they’ve not won a major tournament since the 2013 European Championships. 

“It’s been a decade, and that’s long since we’ve stood on the top podium. So, it’s natural that people don’t see us as outright favourites. We’re kind of the dark-horses but with our world ranking around 4–6 for the last year, a semi-final should be our goal. We need two amazing weeks to win that trophy, but once you reach the semi-finals, things happen. 

“In the end, it’s such a close tournament. One should not be surprised if Belgium, Australia, Netherlands, India or even us, Germany win it.” 

Overall, Henning was happy with the preparations. “We’ve worked hard and I’m excited about our penalty corner group. We have some of the best drag-flickers, but I’m most excited for the young guys. Indians love good attacking hockey and we have some really special players. You should keep an eye out for Moritz Ludwig, who played the last Junior World Cup, and Hannes Müller. We really love playing here and I hope people support us because India is the number one hockey country when it comes to fans.”

Germany will certainly look to become the kings of world hockey and impress the hockey-loving state of Odisha. They begin their campaign on January 14 against current Asian champions Japan. 

Yashodhan Nakhare

Yashodhan Nakhare is a 22 year old freelance hockey journalist who runs 'The Stick Flick' (@The_StickFlick)- a 'short corner' for all your hockey stories from around the world.

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