In the moment of success there could be no other goal. Jean-Paul Danneberg attracted his teammates like a magnet. Relieved and overjoyed, they threw down their racquets and charged after the Cologne keeper saved defending champions Belgium’s seventh and decisive penalty. With the rescue, the 20-year-old ended the highly dramatic final of the Hockey World Cup.
It was 8:7 (3:3) after the end of the penalty shootout – how could this tournament in India have ended differently for the German national team, which had consistently raised the tension in the previous games to the extreme. Reserve goalkeeper Danneberg, who came on specifically for the shootout, made the coup perfect. But someone else had the biggest share of the first world title in 17 years.
Niklas Wellen got his team back into the game after being 2-0 down with the next goal and later scored both in the penalty shoot-out and in extra time. Seven tournament goals meant first place in the internal scorer list. Unsurprisingly, the 28-year-old was voted Man of the Match and shortly afterwards was also named the best player in the World Cup. “The boy is an absolute phenomenon. For me he is currently the best hockey player in the world. He carried us through the tournament,” said teammate Moritz Trompertz. Waves of enthusiasm – for waves, the enthusiastic.
When Captain Mats Grambusch lifted the long-awaited trophy at 9:39 p.m. local time on Sunday evening, Wellen initially posed in the second row for the winning photo. After the organizers advised him to place himself in the middle of the podium, the man from Krefeld recognized the gap even in this confusing situation and, when everything had sorted itself out again, he was suddenly very close to the trophy for “We are the Champions”. and then right in the middle of the party entourage.
“It was a team effort from us. The fact that we came back three times in knockout games is not luck, but shows the quality, the mentality and the character of this team,” said Wellen, recalling the previously extremely exciting games against England in the quarter-finals and Australia in the semi-finals. He did not mention that he was the one who sent the team through to the final with his late goal, nor did he mention his outstanding performance against holders Belgium.
“They are a world-class team, they have so much quality and have been so dominant in recent years. We knew it was going to be a big game. The fact that we win it in a penalty shoot-out is crazy,” said the highly acclaimed player, who also has a lot to celebrate privately after the team returned to Frankfurt on Monday evening.
His father Dirk, who spontaneously flew to India after winning the semifinals, supported him before and during the final. But waves should be even more happy about another family member these days. His wife gave birth to a son during the 2-2 draw against Belgium in the group stage. “The last three weeks have been the greatest of my life. I’m speechless,” he said, who now wants to put the medal on his golden boy.
Unforgettable moments in a place that evoked memories from the start. Coach André Henning and eight of his national players had already become world champions with the U21s in Bhubaneswar ten years ago. “I have tremendous respect for what world-class hockey we play. Turning a 0:2 into a win three times in a knockout game shows this irrepressible will and outstanding mental strength,” said the national coach.
There were many congratulations, even from the highest level. “That was an impressive achievement! Congratulations to the men’s national hockey team on winning the world championship,” wrote Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Twitter. DHB President Henning Fastrich was also enthusiastic. “The whole of Hockey Germany is proud of this team. It’s the comeback team of all time,” said Fastrich.
DHB sports director Martin Schultze is now hoping for further successes this year. “That makes us look forward to the future. I am enthusiastic about the work on the staff and what the team has achieved here is unbelievable. That was an unbelievable tournament performance,” said Schultze, who can now speculate that the sporting success will also improve the economic situation of the association.
The title and the prospect of another successful tournament at the European Championships in Mönchengladbach in August make some German hockey officials dream. “We are all working very hard to ensure that the next period up to a final is not so long again, but that development continues,” Schultze said before the final.