14th January 2018: Austria are the European indoor champions for the second time as they held off an incredible challenge from hosts Belgium who rocked the Lotto Arena in Antwerp.
Germany eventually landed third and bronze with a thrill-a-minute 9-8 win over Poland, initially letting a 5-1 slip to trail 8-7 with three minutes to go before bouncing back.
The Czech Republic and Russia won their final games of the competition, beating Switzerland and Denmark, to stay in the top level with their opponents relegated. They will be replaced in the next edition by the Netherlands and Ukraine.
FINAL: Belgium 4-4 (0-3) Austria, Austria win shoot-out 2-1
Austria are the European indoor champions for the second time as they held off an incredible challenge from hosts Belgium who rocked the Lotto Arena in Antwerp.
The Austrians looked well on course to win the title for the first time since 2010 in Almere as they built a 3-0 half-time lead only for the Belgians to storm back into contention, levelling the game at 3-3 and then 4-4 late in the game.
But Austria, as they had done in the semi-final, kept their composure in the shoot-out with Michael KORPER putting them ahead 2-1 before Mateusz SZYMCZYK denied Max PLENNEVAUX to land the victory.
For Belgium, it continues their recent final frustration having lost in the 2016 Olympic and 2017 European outdoor final. Nonetheless, as the 16th world ranked indoor side, it represents a massive performance and equaled their best performance having ended second in 1976 also.
Early on, Benjamin STANZL was the star man – later named player of the tournament – scoring twice in the opening eight minutes, both beautifully taken shots. Sebastian EITENBERGER added the third for what looked a powerful lead.
Belgium, though, started to scratched away at the lead with Nicolas VANDIEST’s penalty corner reducing the gap. Pierre Louis MARAITE applied a brilliant touch from the right edge of the circle to get within range before Tom DEGROOTE rifled in an equaliser.
Patrick SCHMIDT restored the Austrian lead but PLENNEVAUX levelled once more with five minutes to go, a goal of the tournament contender as Belgium blocked an Austria corner and broke at pace, leading to a fabulous backhand finish.
That sent it to shoot-out but Austria showed less nerves in the final reckoning to secure the crown.
BRONZE MEDAL MATCH: Poland 8-9 (1-5) Germany
Germany showed their resolve when it mattered most to claim bronze ahead of Poland ina 17-goal classic in Antwerp. Valentin ALTENBERG’s team looked set to be in cruise control at half-time when they led 5-1 thanks to a first half hat trick from Anton BOECKEL and two from Moritz FUERSTE.
Poland withdrew their goalkeeper for all of the second half and used the extra man superbly, however, and fought their way right back into the game. Three goals in five minutes reduced the gap to 5-4 and, after an exchange of goals at each end, an unmarked Artur MIKULA eventually levelled the game at 7-7 with six minutes to go.
Karol MAJCHRZAK put Poland in front for the first time in the 36th minute. FUERSTE equalised, though, and Nils GRÜNENWALD nicked the win with mere moments remaining to grab the third place medal.
POOL C: Russia 5-2 (2-1) Denmark
Two late goals from Mikhail PROSKURIAKOV saw Russia pull away from Denmark, getting a win which would ultimately secure sixth place and confirm their top tier status.
An early Aleksandr AGAFONTSEV strike was augmented by the first of three PROSKURIAKOV goals to build a 2-0 lead but Denmark stayed in touch via Tobias GRAND and Jesper JONASSON to remain in touch until six minutes from the end. Russia pulled away, though, and the loss for Denmark means they were relegated to the second tier for the next edition.
Czech Republic 4-2 (3-1) Switzerland
The Czech Republic produced a relatively comfortable 4-2 win over Switzerland to finish fifth overall with their rivals ending seventh and in the relegation places.
Tomas JAHODA and a Martin GREDER penalty corner in the first five minutes saw the game poised at 1-1 before a David VACEK double – both from play – pulled the Czechs 3-1 clear. Jakub KYNDL extended the lead further in the second half and they stayed well ahead despite Yves MORARD’s goal 10 minutes from the end.
5. Czech Republic