Before the World Cup quarter-finals, they did not quite agree on the German national ice hockey team: Are they now in the minds of the Swiss or not? Harold Kreis did not want to rely on it: "That they lose their nerve against a German team, that's really over," said the national coach. Marcel Noebels, however, was hoping for exactly that: "The Swiss is certainly not happy that the German is in front of him again," the striker had teased in view of the recent successes. After all, it's been a proud 31 years since Germany lost a knockout match against Switzerland.
Who was right? Difficult. But at least one thing was certain: On Thursday afternoon in Riga, two teams took to the ice whose mental conditions could hardly be more different. Here are the Germans, who had started the tournament with three defeats and felt a real liberation after reaching the quarter-finals.
"An absolute team effort"
There are the Swiss, who almost arrived with their top squad, dominated their group from the start and saw the quarter-finals only as a stopover on the way to their first World Cup title. So some had something to gain, others had something to lose. And so it happened: Because the Germans won again, this time 3-1 and are thus in the semi-finals of the World Cup, as they were in 2010 and 2021. The opponents on Saturday (17:20 CET on Sport1 and MagentaSport) in Tampere, Finland, are the United States, who won their quarter-final 3-0 against the Czech Republic.
"Unbelievable, once again an absolute team effort," said Noebels afterwards, for whose team everything had worked out. With struggle and unity, the Germans wanted to defy the individual superiority of the Swiss. So even fine spirits like Dominik Kahun, Marcel Noebels and Daniel Fischbuch threw themselves into shots and duels. But it would be too easy to attribute this victory only to passion, the selection of the German Ice Hockey Federation (DEB) also showed playful class, as with their two goals in the middle section, each of which was preceded by fine passes.
A low blow for the Swiss
Only in the early stages did the favorite dominate, when the Swiss seemed to want to show everyone that there was no truth to the talk of the psychological advantage of the Germans. In some cases, the DEB team did not even know what was happening to him. It took a won puck from the outstanding Nico Sturm to break free, and shortly afterwards the Germans also had their first finishes.
And when Maximilian Kastner simply pulled off in the seventh minute, the disc rolled through the legs of Robert Mayer to make it 1-0. A low blow for the Swiss, Mayer had only moved into goal because regular goalkeeper Leonardo Genoni had always been eliminated against Germany recently. Now, of all people, the man who was supposed to do it better blundered.
After that, what the DEB selection had hoped for happened: The Swiss seemed to start pondering, hardly won any duels for minutes - especially against Moritz Seider, who seemed to be turned up, they didn't get a sting. And when they came forward again towards the end of the first period, the strong Mathias Niederberger (a total of 29 saves) was on the post. The lead to the first break was quite okay.
But it didn't last long. Once again, the Swiss got off to a furious start, and this time they scored in the first minute through Jonas Siegenthaler. Seider then complained loudly to the referees because the bat had been knocked out of his hand beforehand. Seider also played a leading role in the next important scene.
After a hard and unnecessary perimeter check against Gaëtan Haas, he had to take a shower. Although the Germans survived the five-minute penalty unscathed, they lacked their defensive boss from then on. But maybe that's why they shifted up a gear again. First JJ Peterka scored, before the second break Nico Sturm made it 3-1. It was a "small knockout blow" for the Swiss, Noebels said afterwards.
Of course, nothing had been won yet. In the last section, the Swiss threw everything forward again, constricting the Germans for minutes. But they defended with passion. Again and again, someone threw himself into a shot or worked the puck over the blue line – always celebrated by his colleagues on the bench.
Thus, the Germans brought the lead over time. And if the DEB has its way, the mood will be even better on Friday. Then the IIHF will award the 2027 World Championship, Germany and Kazakhstan are the candidates. The decision is expected in the afternoon. National coach Harold Kreis and his team will have been preparing for the semi-finals for a long time.