Scary day for Holdermann

KUALA LUMPUR: Six-time champions Germany got their Junior World Cup (JWC) campaign off to a winning start when they beat South Africa 5-3 in a Group B match at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil today.

However, 2021 runners-up Germany did not have it easy against the much-improved South Africans in a match that saw German striker Liam Holdermann hogging the headlines after rushing straight back from a check-up at the National Sports Institute (NSI) to get his name on the scoresheet.

World No. 2 Germany opened the scoring through Christian Franz's penalty corner goal in the fifth minute before Florian Sperling doubled their lead five minutes later with a field goal.

South Africa, who claimed their fifth Junior Africa title in March, reduced the deficit through David Tshebi in the 24th minute but the Germans hit back almost immediately through a field goal by second-quarter substitute Holdermann, who had earlier undergone a check-up at the NSI after complaining of chest pain.

Germany, who beat South Africa 6-1 in the recent Sultan of Johor Cup, added two more goals through Matteo Poliaric (41st minute) and Ben Hasbach (59th), while Jaydon Brooker (39th) and Hans Neethling (53rd) netted for South Africa.

Speaking at the post-match press conference, Germany coach Rein Van Eijk admitted that his men, who began aggressively, let their guards down for a while, adding that they were surprised by South Africa's all-out attack and high-pressing game.

"Correct to say that this was a hard-fought victory. A lot of juggling (as) the first game is always very messy. We slipped for a while but managed to regain our focus quickly. We have a couple of players who are injured and one who came on straight from the hospital.

"He (Holdermann) complained of some chest pain. We wanted to be certain that there was no infection, so we had to send him to the hospital. After the checkup, he was fine, that's why he arrived late.

"It was a quick in-and-out… happy everything is okay, grateful with the Malaysian people who helped us in such a way, to check him in quickly," he said, adding that his charges are trying to acclimatise to the hot weather ahead of matches against France and Egypt.

Malaysia is a happy hunting ground for Germany as they have won three JWC titles each time it was held here - 1982 (Kuala Lumpur), 1989 (Ipoh) and 2009 (Johor Bahru & Singapore).

Germany, the most successful team in the JWC history, have also secured podium finishes in every JWC, except the 2005 Rotterdam edition.

Earlier, in another Group B fixture, reigning bronze medallist France defeated Egypt 3-1 ahead of their games against the mighty Germans tomorrow.

Les Bleus scored through Arthur Morcrette in the 21st minute, Mathis Clement (25th) and Gaspard Denis (38th), while Africa Cup runners-up Egypt replied through Ahmed Elhadi's field goal in the 49th minute.

For the record, Argentina beat Germany 4-2 in the 2021 final in Bhubaneswar, India. – BERNAMA

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