With the culmination of the Pool D matches, the league stage of the FIH Hockey World Cup is now officially closed.
The table toppers have made it directly to the quarterfinals, while those at the second and third place in the pool stage have made the cut for the crossover round, or the mini pre quarterfinals.
Unfortunately, four teams have to say goodbye to their World Cup dreams, as they made an exit from the pool stage itself.
With Spain, South Africa and Ireland already having made an exit, it was time for Asian Games' silver medalists and giant killers Malaysia, who were being coached by ex India coach Roelant Oltmans, to pack their bags, as they were beaten 3-5 by European powerhouse Germany.
Right from the word go, Malaysia had the writing on the wall. Touted to upset many strong teams at the start of the World Cup, Malaysia looked totally out of synchronization against the strong German attack.
From the second minute itself, when Germany scored their first goal, the bubble fame of Malaysia was reduced to smithereens by Germany in this match. Though Malaysia tried to fight back, scoring goals at regular intervals, it went all in vain.
An attempt to play rough only backfired on the Malaysian team, as two of their players, Azuan Hasan (in the 14th minute) and Marhan Jalil (in the 57th minute) were shown the yellow cards for being over aggressive on the field.
The only place where Malaysia made a valid attempt to outfox Germany was in the penalty corners, where Malaysia capitalized on three of their eight penalty corners.
Sadly, this was of no use, as Germany had already secured a lead of 4-3 by the end of the third quarter, which was further extended to 5-3 by Timm Herzbruch.
#5 Germany attack from the word Go
Much like the Kookaburras, Germany believes in the maxim of attack and make irrecoverable damages against the rival team. From the very first whistle itself, it was clear as to which team actually called the shots in the match between Germany and Malaysia.
The Germans found a reason to cheer, when Timm Herzbruch scored a crisp field goal in the second minute of the match, capitalizing on a penalty corner earned by the Germans.
Ironically, this was the only instance, when Germany succeeded in scoring against Malaysia on a penalty corner.
Otherwise, out of the nine penalty corners that Germany had earned, they couldn't capitalize on any of the other eight penalty corners.
This could be an area of concern for Germany in the upcoming quarterfinals, given that they could only convert four out of 14 penalty corners successfully.
#4 Malaysian attack is backed by a jittery defence
Though down, Malaysia was certainly not out. Coached by Roelant Oltmans, the Asian Games' silver medalists were raring to go in this do or die match.
And they found a reason to smile in the second quarter, as they earned two back to back penalty corners in the 26th and 28th minute respectively, which were converted without any difficulty by Razie Rahim and Nabil Noor into goals, reducing the deficit to 3-2.
However, they couldn't equalize the score at all, thanks to their jittery defence. Much like the notorious Indian defence, the Malaysian defence is also the weak spot for Malaysia.
This was the same thing that was exploited by Japan in the Asian Games finals to not only come back into the match, but also earn a surprise gold medal.
Now this was the same weak spot that hindered Malaysia from getting back into the match.
#3 Tobias Walter keeps the count low
Though Malaysia had earned almost as many penalty corners as Germany, they couldn't back their conversions with their field goals as Germany did.
A major reason for this was Tobias Walter, the goalkeeper of Germany, who controlled the Malaysian attack with finesse, keeping the conceded goal count low.
Malaysia had dominated throughout the second quarter, earning two goals as well. Interestingly, Malaysia had also made nine circle entries in the same quarter, with four penalty corners earned, and three shots made at the goal.
However, only two of the same could materialize into tangible goals, and this is because of Tobias Walter, who stood solid as a rock against the Malaysian attack.
The fact that Tobias Walter was extremely successful could be proved from the fact that the third goal of Malaysia came 14 minutes later, and that too when Germany had extended their lead to 4-2.
#2 Marco Miltkau emerges as the hero again
Apart from Tobias Walter, if there was one more person whom Germany would profusely thank for after this match, it was undoubtedly Marco Miltkau.
He not only served as the link man for the German stalwarts Herzbruch and Christopher Ruhr, but also chipped in two crucial goals for his own team.
During the second quarter, when Malaysia dominated the second quarter, it was also Marco who scored the crucial goal in order to deny Malaysia a chance to make an equalizer.
He also acted as a defender, denying Malaysia a chance to exploit their circle penetrations, and go for the goal. Like his stint against Netherlands, Marco Miltkau single handedly thwarted the opposition attack.
In fact, when the third quarter gave indications of Malaysia making a decent chance at a comeback, it was Marco who scored another field goal, sealing the fate for Malaysia and giving Germany a direct berth to the quarterfinals.
#1 Germany has an interesting road ahead
With this impressive win, Germany has not only topped the table, it has also made the cut for the quarterfinals, joining the likes of Argentina, Australia and hosts India who have achieved the feat with ease.
As of now, it ranks only behind the defending champions, in terms of statistics, with India and Argentina following suite.
On paper, Germany has an interesting road ahead. They would have to face the winner of the crossover between Belgium and Pakistan, who are not only ranked below the European powerhouse, but also have little to negligible chances against the Olympic bronze medalists.
However, this doesn't mean that Germany can sit back and afford to relax. Their penalty corner conversion is a cause of grave concern.
Having managed to convert only four of their 14 penalty corners successfully, Germany needs to get back in order quickly, or else the World Cup dreams might end sooner than imaginable.