After 80 matches and seven days of rousing action, Austria’s men successfully defended their world title while the Netherlands regained the women’s crown as the FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup came to a gripping end in Pretoria, South Africa.
Michael Körper got the defending champions off to a great start in the men’s final, putting his side ahead in the ninth minute. Less than a minute later the Dutch struck back, Max Sweering slotting one in off a penalty stroke for the equaliser just before the first break. But it didn’t take long for the Austrians to regain their lead, Körper once again adding his name to the scoresheet with a magnificent, lifted effort. The Dutch once again came back at them though, to level matters before halftime.
The Netherlands then led twice in the second half, but the prolific Körper completed his hattrick to once again draw level at 4-4, sending the title decider to a shootout, which the Austrians edged 3-2 for a memorable victory.
“Unbelievable, unbelievable,” said the elated Austrian captain, Leon Thörnblom. “You tend to say a lot but when you do it, it’s just a different feeling. I have no words, I can’t explain it… just unbelievable. I’m so happy.”
Dutch coach Robert Tigges was proud of his team’s performance. “What can I say? Tough luck, it was so super-close… During the game it looked like we were the better team and I think we created more chances, but we know they have a solid squad and it’s hard to score goals against them. But I’m very proud of my team. I think we played a great tournament.”
While the Austrian men were crowned world champions for a second time, the women were seeking a first-ever world title when they also took on the Netherlands in their final.
But the Dutch were in rampant mood in what turned into a completely one-sided match.
Mabel Brands scored a hattrick as the Dutch romped to a third world title with a 7-0 victory. With that, they also climbed to the top spot in the world rankings while Austria moved up from seventh to fourth.
“I’m so proud. We did a really good job, we prepared well and we executed it,” said Brands. As for scoring a hattrick in a World Cup final, she added: “It’s special, really special – I will never forget it.”
In a first for a Hockey World Cup, both the men’s and women’s finals featured one male and one female umpire in each.
Meanwhile, the women’s third-place playoff saw hosts South Africa taking on the Czech Republic.
Having dropped from third at the 2015 World Cup to seventh in 2018, the Czechs were determined to make a return to the podium and they put in the ideal performance to do just that. Adela Lehovcova scored a brace and Anna Kolarova added another before the home side could breach the Austrian defence. Tegan Fourie’s consolation goal in the 26thminute was not enough to prevent the 1-3 loss for the South Africans, who nevertheless achieved their highest-ever World Cup finish with fourth place. Their unprecedented progress also saw them climbing up the world rankings from 12th place to sixth.
“We’ve done a very good job in this tournament,” said Czech captain Katerina Lacina. “The wins we had during the tournament are a big step forwards. I think we can be proud of what we achieved.”
The men’s bronze medal match between Iran and the USA produced another fast-paced showdown which included several spectacular goals. It was all square on 4-4 by the final hooter after Aki Kaeppeler found the final equaliser in the 37th minute.
Just like they did in their quarterfinal match, the Iranians clinched the win in the shootout to match their bronze medal-winning performance from the last FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup in 2018.
“We did a lot of training for shootouts because we knew we could be in that position in many matches. The USA is a very strong team… but slowly by slowly we could manage the game,” said Iranian captain Behdad Beiranvand, before embracing and swapping shirts with an emotional US captain Pat Harris.
“I think we surprised a lot of people. I just feel bad that we couldn’t make it happen. It’s just been a massive journey for the whole team,” said Harris. “I’m proud of the group and the way we played in the semifinal and even in this third-place game, we should still hold our heads high and we can go home with a good feeling.”
As a result of their efforts, the Americans have taken a massive leap in the world rankings, up from 24th to eighth place.
11 February 2023 Results
Result: Match 35 – men
New Zealand 2 – 7 Australia
Player of the match: Ben Staines (AUS)
Umpires: Diego Barbas (ARG), Celine Martin-Schmets (BEL)
Result: Match 36 – men
Austria 8 – 3 Iran
Player of the match: Fabian Unterkircher (AUT)
Umpires: Lee Barron (ENG), Adam Barry (AUS)
Result: Match 37 – men
Netherlands 7 – 3 USA
Player of the match: Nicki Leijs
Umpires: Sean Edwards (ENG), Andres Ortiz (ESP)
Result: Match 38 – women
Austria 1 – 0 Czech Republic
Player of the match: Marianne Pulter (AUT)
Umpires: Sophie Bockelmann (GER), Celine Martin-Schmets (BEL)
Result: Match 37 – women
Netherlands 6 – 1 South Africa
Player of the match: Lieke van Wijk (NED)
Umpires: Melina Illanes (ARG), Rachel Williams (ENG)
Result: Match 38 – men
Kazakhstan 2 – 5 Czech Republic
Player of the match: Lukas Plochy (CZE)
Umpires: Ayden Shrives (RSA), Lukasz Zwierzchowski (POL)
Result: Match 39 – men
Iran 4 (3) – 4 (2) USA
Player of the match: Reza Norouzzadeh (IRI)
Umpires: Lee Barron (ENG), Adam Barry (AUS)
Result: Match 39 – women
South Africa 1 – 3 Czech Republic
Player of the match: Barbora Cechakova (CZE)
Umpires: Melina Illanes (ARG), Emily Carroll (AUS)
Result: Match 40 – men
Austria 4 (3) – 4 (2) Netherlands
Player of the match: Michael Körper (AUT)
Umpires: Rachel Williams (ENG), Sean Edwards (ENG)
Result: Match 40 – women
Netherlands 7 – 0 Austria
Player of the match: Mabel Brands (NED)
Umpires: Andres Ortiz (ESP), Sophie Bockelmann (GER)
Final tournament standings
3. Czech Republic
4. South Africa
11. New Zealand
6. South Africa
9. Czech Republic
12. New Zealand
Best Player: Donja Zwinkels (NED)
Hero Top Scorer: Donja Zwinkels (NED)
Best Goalkeeper: Barbora Cechakova (CZE)
Best Junior Player: Reese D’ariano (USA)
Best Player: Fabian Unterkircher (AUT)
Hero Top Scorer: Michael Körper (AUT)
Best Goalkeeper: Mateusz Szymczyk (AUT)
Best Junior Player: Mustaphaa Cassiem (RSA)