France have had a fairytale run so far but it is Germany who start out as favourites when the two meet in the final of the Junior Hockey World Cup on Sunday. While France hadnt even reached the semifinal stage in the 34-year history of the tournament until this edition,defending champions Germany will be gunning for their sixth title.
The last time the two teams met,in the bronze medal playoff of the European Juniors,France had been blanked 8-0 but the Junior World Cup has seen them in strong form. They beat traditional powers Argentina and Spain in the group stage,then stunned European champions Belgium in the quarterfinals. The game against Belgium saw them overturn a 4-2 deficit and their ability to play under pressure was in display once again in the semifinal against Malaysia where they drew level 1-1 in the last 10 minutes before going on to win the subsequent penalty shootouts.
Against Germany though,fighting spirit alone will not be enough. The defending champions overcame an early hiccup in the league phase against Belgium but in each of their subsequent matches have played with a maturity and structural resiliance that belies the fact that this is an age group event. Christopher Ruhr,provides the cutting edge up front.
France coach Gael Foulard knows his side have their task cut out. We know that we are up against one of the best hockey teams in the world. We have faced Germany in the past and we expect a tough time, he said.