By C. Rajshekhar Rao ,AP
BHUBANESWAR, India — Germany and Pakistan have risen from last in the pool stage to meet in the Champions Trophy field hockey final 20 years after their last title showdown.
On a semifinals day that produced two classics on Saturday, Germany almost blew a three-goal lead before tipping out five-time defending champion Australia 3-2, and Pakistan held off tournament host India 4-3 in front of a sell-out crowd of 7,000 that sounded like 14,000 at Kalinga Stadium.
Germany won the last of its nine titles in 2007, before Australia went on its unprecedented streak of five championships to replace Germany as the Trophy’s most successful team.
Run over in the pool stage, the Germans suddenly developed a steely defense in the playoffs, and a scoring touch. Two first-quarter goals by Timur Oruz and Mats Grambusch put the heat on Australia, then Florian Fuchs made it 3-0 a minute into the new half.
Chris Ciriello finally put Australia on the board three minutes later, and Nicholas Budgeon cut the deficit to one with nearly 20 minutes to go. But Australia couldn’t convert one more penalty corner or several raids into the circle, and came up short.
��It has been an incredible tournament for us because it is not easy matching top international sides with so many youngsters in the side,�� Furste said. ��I’m proud of my team and how they played today. I’m confident of winning the tournament.��
It will be the fifth final between Germany and Pakistan, and the first since 1994, when Pakistan won its third and last title in a penalty shootout.
India, seeking its maiden final appearance, went ahead through Gurjinder Singh off its first penalty corner in the 12th minute, but Pakistan leveled through Muhammad Arslan Qadir in the 18th, and the score remained deadlocked at halftime.
Pakistan went up 2-1 thanks to Muhammad Waqas, but the advantage was squandered as Qadir earned a yellow card for a body tackle. India equalized in the very next minute, as Akashdeep Singh set up Dharamvir Singh to shoot in from the top of the circle with a reverse-flick.
A penalty-corner variation put Pakistan back up 3-2, but Chandana Thimmaiah tied it again with a deflection. As the game quickened up, Qadir scored the decider with 90 seconds left, handling Ali Shan’s cross and scoring over goalkeeper Sreejesh Parattu.
Pakistan celebrated by taking their shirts off and gesturing wildly at the crowd, which had gone silent each time Pakistan scored.
��It’s a great victory for us, beating India in India in a big game,�� Rashid Mehmood said.
��It’s not just a great victory for us but our country. We needed this victory for our future. We didn’t play in the World Cup and have missed out on top hockey. Now that we are back in top hockey, we are doing well.��