Germany’s handball players don’t have much time to complain about missing out on a European Championship medal. The next big task awaits with the Olympic qualification.
Over a cozy dinner, Germany’s handball players committed themselves to their Olympic mission after missing out on a European Championship medal. The next important tournament for national coach Alfred Gislason’s team is just over six weeks away: the elimination for the Summer Games in Paris.
“These are three very crucial games for German handball. There is now a tension that we would have liked to have avoided,” said DHB sports director Axel Kromer.
From March 14th to 17th, the DHB selection will meet Austria, Croatia and Algeria. “We don’t have a chance there. But it will be very interesting, without a doubt,” said Gislason after missing direct qualification by losing 31:34 against Sweden in the bronze game at the home European Championships.
Optimistic about the Olympic qualification
Captain Johannes Golla looked forward with confidence after the initial disappointment. “We have taken a huge step forward in defense. With new players in the squad, we have been given new options that can be very valuable in the future,” said the 26-year-old pivot from SG Flensburg-Handewitt.
The German team also draws optimism from the fact that they held up better against the three top teams France, Denmark and Sweden than a year ago – even if they left the floor as losers in all duels. “It sticks, that’s why we’re sad,” admitted Kromer.
The European Championship gave the players the confidence “that we can do it,” as Golla stated. “But it also brings with it the warning that we have to reach the absolute limit in order to keep up with the top teams,” said the DHB captain and demanded: “We simply have to play more consistently over 60 minutes.”
The national coach gave further reasons why the longed-for first medal at a major tournament since Olympic bronze in Rio 2016 didn’t come to fruition despite the support of the fans. “We lack experience and patience. It’s a learning process. If that happens, I’m very optimistic for this team,” summed up Gislason.
National coach wants to stay on board
He himself would like to stay on board after the Olympics, when his contract ends. “I have signaled that I would like to continue doing this. Of course I really enjoy it,” said Gislason. The association announced that it would soon hold talks about extending the contract with the 64-year-old Icelander. But initially he only focuses on the task at hand. “We now have an Olympic qualification ahead of us, which will be incredibly important for German handball,” said Gislason. At least the German team can rely on the home advantage again when they reach for the Paris tickets. The German Handball Federation has applied to host the tournament, which would take place in Hanover if the IHF world association were awarded the contract. The decision is expected at the end of this week.
Kromer sees the team on the right path, even if fourth place dampened the euphoria. “I think we will come out of this European Championship stronger. We have learned a lot of things that we can build on,” said the sports director and added: “We can still develop. I hope we benefit from the fact that the boys have some have gained experience.”
The DHB selection still lacks the breadth of the squad that the big three have. “France, Denmark and Sweden are in front of us for a reason,” said Gislason. “But our players saw that they are close to their idols.” Playmaker Juri Knorr demanded continued hard work in order to be able to take the next step and close the gap. “We have to get better so that we can consistently get to the semi-finals. But it won’t be a sure-fire success,” said the 23-year-old from cup winners Rhein-Neckar Löwen.
The next opportunity comes at the Olympics in Paris. To achieve this, at least second place is required in the qualifying tournament. The players approach this task with confidence. “It’s doable. It’s realistic that we’ll progress,” announced U21 world champion Renars Uscins.
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