Stapenhorst hat trick leads Germany to bronze
GER v ESP 5-1 (4-0)
A hat trick for Germany’s newest superstar Charlotte Stapenhorst was the icing on the cake for Germany in the Unibet EuroHockey Championships bronze medal match. Germany’s hold on the EuroHockey title might have disappeared in the semi-finals, but the team was determined to leave the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre with a medal round their necks and their dismantling of the Spanish team was a study in structure and discipline.
The first 15 minutes of the game saw a pattern of play emerging that would set the tone for the match. A German defensive platform, mostly involving Janne Muller-Weiland and Nina Hasselmann swung the ball around the back, sapping the energy of the Spain forwards and gradually, inexorably, the ball was moved up the pitch, with the midfield seeking to release the forwards. In response, Spain sat back and soaked up the pressure, making occasional forays into the German half of the pitch.
The warning signs were there early, Eileen Hoffmann, Marie Mavers and the excellent Stapenhorst hovered menacingly near the Spanish circle, looking for the breaks. Maria Ruiz was Spain’s saviour on a number of occasions in those opening minutes, but there was nothing the ‘keeper could do when Player of the Match Stapenhorst used the most sublime of touches to turn Franzisca Hauke’s penetrating pass into the goal.
It was Stapenhorst (19′) again just after the first quarter break. Germany’s penalty corner was charged down but the ball flew to Anne Schroder. Her pass found Stapenhorst who again showed great technique to double her tally.
Continuous pressure, largely instigated by the effective Hauke, led to more pressure on the Spain circle. After a sustained period of attack, Germany won a penalty stroke, which Lisa Altenberg (22′) duly converted. Her heart would momentarily have been in her mouth as replacement goalkeeper Maria Lopez got a glove to her who, but pace carried it in.
As the half drew to a close, Spain made inroads, with Beatriz Perez playing a beautifully placed and paced cross, but there was no-one on the end of it and the ball flew harmlessly off the pitch.
Seconds later, in a move that summed up the two teams, Spain’s Maria Tost found herself in a one-on-one with Yvonne Frank. The striker panicked and the ensuing clearance went route one to Hoffmann (29′), who slotted it calmly past Ruiz to make it 4-0.
Two minutes into the second half and Stapenhorst registered her hat trick. Altenberg supplied the pass that the young player was able to convert over a desperately diving Ruiz.
Spain were rewarded for their persistence when Carlota Petchame (44′) was able to lift the ball over Kristina Reynolds, who had replaced Frank in the German goal. The quick break highlighted the work that Germany still need to do as team as they continue to rebuild.
With 15 minutes left, Spain continued to press. Captain Rocio Ybarra was instrumental in setting up a series of Spanish attacks, but the experience and control of the German defence was enough to take the momentum out of the attack and normal German domination resumed.
There was one more scoring opportunity, but Lopez made a great save to deny Hoffmann. This was the last significant action in a match in which Germany were deserved winners.
“That victory was really important for us,” said Kristina Hillmann. “We were so disappointed at our performance against the Dutch.”
In an insight into the tactics used, Hillmann added: “We played a great defence, swinging the ball around the back at a high pace and creating spaces through to our forwards.”
This was a point upon which Spain’s Georgina Oliva agreed: “They moved the ball so quickly, we chased it and got tired, so when we came to attack, we were too tired to be effective.”