Sunday, June 23, 2024

3 key points behind Germany’s come-from-behind victory over Finland

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In the first upset victory of the 2024 World Junior Championship (WJC) tournament, the German team defied the odds and achieved a come-from-behind victory, defeating the highly anticipated Finnish team 4-3. This victory is a picture perfect example of the effort and practice that the Germans have put in in recent years. This was Germany’s first match of the tournament, and they went into it as a clear underdog. Finland got off to a tough start, losing to Team Canada 5-2 in their first WJC match. They were definitely going to win against Germany, right? That’s not the case. Germany played against Finland and showed that they can compete with strong teams.

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Finland was leading 3-2, but then everything went sideways. Just when Germany tied the game and thought we would see another moment of Finnish attack, Germany managed to steal the puck on a miscall. Finnish defenseman Jesse Pulkinen stumbled while carrying the puck out of the defensive zone. Moments later, German forward Veit Oswald made it 2-0 by lunging at the Finnish goalkeeper and scoring the goal, securing the victory.

Every time Germany scored, Finland countered with an own goal. Oswald scored the opening goal and the winning goal, but the early scoring didn’t last long as Tomi Manisto scored the equalizer. Finland dominated possession for the first 20 minutes, but had to counter the German defense if they were to have any chance of winning.

Germany shuts down Finland defensively

Throughout the match, Finland tenaciously tried to break through the German defense. Despite their constant efforts, Finland only opted for a perimeter strategy late in the game, and their attacking power improved significantly. German goalkeeper Philipp Dietl initially entered the tournament as a reserve for the German national team, but he soon found himself needing to make an impact.he found himself Replaces starting goalkeeper Simon Wolfewithdrew from the tournament for health reasons.

Leni Hamenaho Team Finland
Leni Hamenaho, Finland team (Photo by Dale Preston/Getty Images)

Oswald came close to regaining Germany’s lead in the second period, hitting the crossbar as the game heated up. After a back-and-forth battle, Finland’s Kasper Haltunen defeated Dietl, making the score 2-1 for Finland. Finland’s lead was short-lived as Germany’s Niklas Hübner equalized just 45 seconds later. The intensity of the match continued to increase as each rush created more chances. Some chances were better than others, but Finland’s Sam Bowe tapped in the puck that bounced off Dietl’s pads.

Finland regained the lead for the entire 10 minutes. Just when it looked like Finland would be able to overcome Germany’s strong defense, Roman Ketscher scored the equalizer after a turnover by Harttunen. Germany continued to fight off Finland’s onslaught, and one misplay led to the deciding goal. Finland stepped out of the zone when Pulkinen stumbled, but the play was then uncalled. Oswald was in the right position at the right time and scored a goal, putting his team up 4-3.

Related: 2024 World Junior Championship Guide

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Dietl’s unexpected appearance was a rallying point for Germany, and his outstanding performance demonstrated the unpredictability and transformative nature of the WJC, underscoring its importance in player development. Around his 7th minute in the third period, Finland realized the need for a change in strategy. This turned out to be a tactical decision that probably should have been made 10 minutes before the period.

Finland’s new approach posed a big challenge to Germany’s defense. The Germans went from cutting passing lanes to positioning themselves in front of shooting lanes to vice versa. This change in strategy allowed Finland to have 12 shots on goal, but none of them were enough to tie the game at four goals apiece. They were unable to create dangerous changes or threats that Dietl could not handle.

Finland scored a weak shot and did not create any dangerous chances.

The significant challenges plaguing Finland at the 2024 WJC revolve around the strategic flaws embedded in their mindset of prioritizing quantity over quality. The team was determined to take as many shots as possible and were unable to create any significant chances that would pose a threat to the German goalkeeper. When Finland has the puck, they tend to focus on creating a high volume of shots rather than organizing careful plays that result in quality chances.

During attacking rushes, Finland often haphazardly directs the puck into the net without deliberately considering what to do next. When taking shots on goal, Dietl easily covered the puck and allowed himself to manage nearly every rebound. This lack of follow-through highlights a significant flaw in their offensive strategy as they were unable to convert anything into scoring opportunities.

This is further intensified in power play situations where Finland can swarm and pressure Germany’s penalty kill unit. Germany played with aggression and skill, while Finland appeared to be in complete panic at times. The pressure from Germany’s penalty killer prompted a reaction from the Finnish players. This resulted in them trying to get rid of the puck in a hurry, and they were unable to compose themselves or strategize their power play sequences more responsibly.

Finland had a chance to tie the score in the second half, but fell short.

The inability to take advantage of rebounds, the tendency to give up possession, or panic and force players out of the offensive zone has been a problem for Germany vs. Finland, and has been the case in both previous games. Germany exploited all of Finland’s shortcomings. Germany’s penalty killer is their biggest weapon in this match and that could give them the confidence they need to face other big teams throughout the tournament.

The biggest example of Germany’s strong penalty kill came near the end when forward Julian Lutz was penalized for a slash. Finland pulled its goalie with 1:58 left in the third period to make it 6-4. Their passing was patient and they continued to fire shots towards the net, but in the end Dietl swung the game in Germany’s favor. After the final horn, Germany celebrated making history by defeating Finland for the first time in 26 games.

Germany’s next match will be against Sweden on Thursday, December 28th. Finland will face Latvia and Sweden in their remaining qualifying matches, but they can’t afford to lose any more if they want to be in the medal conversation this year.

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