Another win – and the German handball players will play for the medals at the home European Championships. The belief in this is great before the duel with Croatia.
First there was a tough discussion among the players, then an emotional speech from the national coach – and suddenly the German handball players found themselves in high spirits again at the home European Championships and right in the middle of the medal race.
“We believe in the semi-finals,” confirmed national coach Alfred Gislason before the final main round game against Croatia on Wednesday (8.30 p.m./ARD and Dyn) in Cologne.
Elated by the inspiring gala performance in the 35:28 win against Hungary, which more than eight million people watched on TV on Monday evening, his protégés threw themselves into preparation after a short night. “There is a positive atmosphere, but we didn’t have a party,” reported captain Johannes Golla and warned: “The good game can quickly become worthless if we don’t get to our level against Croatia.”
Semifinals even possible with defeat
Nevertheless: After the previously sobering draw against Austria, there is euphoria again in and around the team, which can make it into the semi-finals perfect with a win on its own. “We have the scepter back in our hands,” said DHB sports director Axel Kromer with relief.
As second in Group I (5:3 points), Germany can even afford a defeat if their pursuers Hungary and Austria (4:4) do not win their last main round games. But that is not up for debate. “It’s one of the greatest opportunities in everyone’s career. Everyone will be happy to be on the plate and tear themselves apart,” said playmaker Juri Knorr.
If they advance, world champions and top favorites Denmark will be waiting in the semi-finals on Friday. But Golla and Co. don’t want to deal with that at all. “We have the unique chance to reach the semi-finals with a good performance at a home European Championship. I’m not interested in anything else,” assured the 26-year-old pivot from SG Flensburg-Handewitt.
Croatia could benefit from defeat against Germany
He hopes for another atmospheric handball festival against Croatia. “If we want to achieve something, we can only do it together. Without the fans we wouldn’t reach this limit. You can see how many emotions come out of us. That doesn’t work without the support of the spectators,” said Golla.
The fact that the Croatians no longer care about anything in the tournament could play into the DHB team’s hands. In view of the fact that participation in the Olympic qualification in the spring is not yet guaranteed, Croatia could even benefit from its own defeat due to the complicated regulations.
“This constellation seems absurd,” admitted sports director Kromer and at the same time assured: “It is in no way conceivable that we take a more relaxed approach because we assume that the Croats want to lose.”
Goalkeeper Wolff wants to celebrate something
On the contrary. Rather, a top performance is intended to further strengthen self-confidence for the medal fight that is within reach. “It can go the same way on Wednesday so that we can then challenge the Danes with momentum,” said goalkeeper Andreas Wolff and reiterated: “We hope that we have something to celebrate after the tournament.”
The German team showed what they are capable of against Hungary. This was also due to a ruthless analysis the day before the game. “There were harsh and honest words. It’s part of addressing things that aren’t going so well. Everyone can deal with that well because it’s never something personal, but rather helps the team,” reported backcourt player Julian, who scored eight goals Köster.
The 23-year-old delivered a world-class performance both front and back and received a lot of praise from his teammates. “Julian is a fantastic player and incredibly important for the team. He is irreplaceable in the inner block and also sets a tone in the attack,” said Wolff.
The second row also shines
For Golla, Köster is “one of the supporting pillars in the team. Everyone sees how valuable he is. He is a communicative person who always exudes a good mood and takes responsibility. Julian is an integral part of the team,” said the DHB captain .
On a great day, the German team also shone with Sebastian Heymann, Jannik Kohlbacher and Christoph Steinert, but also players who are not otherwise in the spotlight. “They were all great,” praised Gislason.
The national coach had optimally prepared and trained his protégés for the tricky task – and relied on emotions. “He chose a different speech and showed what a great coach and great person he is. That touched us very much,” reported Knorr.
Gislason himself did not want to reveal anything about his speech in the cabin. “It’s internal,” said the 64-year-old Icelander and added with a relaxed smile: “If I hadn’t contributed anything to it, it would be very strange.”
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