The German handball players will initially meet France, North Macedonia and Switzerland at the European Championships at home. The first goal is the main round, the big dream is a medal.
A neighboring duel for the hoped-for world record opening and the highlight against the record world champions for the group final: 245 days before the start of the first home European Championship, Germany’s handball players have received certainty about their three preliminary round opponents. In addition to the six-time World Cup champion France and opening opponent Switzerland, the team of national coach Alfred Gislason also meets North Macedonia in Group A.
“I’m very happy with this group. Of course you could have gotten an easier opponent than Switzerland at the start. But I’m really looking forward to this start in front of a full house. It will be an experience for all of us,” said Gislason on Wednesday the draw in Dusseldorf.
Gislason: Happy about Switzerland as an opponent
DHB President Andreas Michelmann was also happy. “It’s off to a perfect start. We couldn’t have done better than with Switzerland – at least for the fans. The team now knows that they have to start with full concentration,” he said. And DHB sports director Axel Kromer added: “Everyone knows Andy Schmid. That will be his last dance before he becomes a coach. It won’t be easy, but hopefully we will solve the task.”
Schmid, who played for the Rhein-Neckar Löwen in the Bundesliga for twelve years from 2010 to 2022, was also enthusiastic. “It’s fantastic for us. Nothing bigger can happen to Swiss handball than playing the opening game of a European Championship in Düsseldorf against Germany in front of 50,000 spectators. That’s just brilliant,” said the 39-year-old to “Mannheimer Morgen”.
Top opponent France is also waiting
After the game against North Macedonia on January 14, the DHB selection meets France two days later in the top duel of the preliminary round. “Of course we have a very big chunk ahead of us. But I’m optimistic that we can field a good team. We can beat them if we play focused for 60 minutes,” said Gislason.
In the event of sporting success, the DHB team will continue in the main round against the two best teams from groups B and C. Possible opponents are the two-time European champions Spain, Croatia, Austria, Romania, Iceland, Hungary, Serbia and Montenegro. “Our main round group will certainly be more difficult than the others,” said Gislason with a view to possible rivals.
DHB boss: The goal is to win a medal
The venue for the games on January 18th, 20th, 22nd and 24th is Cologne, where the medals will also be awarded on the final weekend from January 26th to 28th. Then the DHB selection still wants to be there. “In a home EM, the goal must be to win a medal,” said DHB boss Michelmann.
Other venues for the final round are Hamburg, Mannheim and Munich. “We hope it will be an unforgettable tournament,” said Michelmann at the 45-minute ceremony. Sports director Kromer appealed to the team: “We have to perform properly and transport emotions.”
The fans are already showing great interest. More than a quarter of the total of 400,000 tickets have already been sold, including a good 40,000 for the opening game with the DHB selection. The next sales phase starts on May 31st.
It is only the third final round with 24 participants. The DHB selection is hoping for the first precious metal since the sensational EM triumph in Poland in 2016. The title favorites are world champions Denmark, defending champions Sweden, France and Spain.
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