How did it end?

Preliminary round, group C: Latvia – Germany 27:28 (11:16)

How did the game go?

If the German team’s exhaled air had been caught after the final whistle and made available to a wind turbine: a small town could have been supplied with electricity for a week. They blew a lot and for a long time and looked in confusion into the hall. Did it really just happen? They almost gave away a sure win against Latvia, a team from the third row of world handball. As if the footballers had against South Korea …, oh let’s leave that.

Germany was allowed after the defeat Spain not lose to move into the main round, which seemed almost impossible with this opponent. Latvia, the newcomer to the European Championship, has had no chance in both previous games. After a nervous start in which two Latvian goals were scored during a two-minute majority for Germany (6: 5, 13th minute), half-left Julius Kühn and right winger Timo Kastening threw out a comfortable 5-goal lead at break (11:16 ). Both remained without a miss in the first half. The second half also started safely, the comfortable lead remained until the 45th minute. The Latvians used a three-day run and a double time penalty against the German team to reach 25:27 (55th minute). Nobody woke the team up. only two goals ahead, then only one and 50 seconds to play. In the end that was enough, but it wasn’t the hoped-for free spin after the debacle against Spain.

Why was it so tight?

For this you have to look at the last 15 minutes. Before that, everything the national coach wanted to see seemed to be working: in the attack, the backcourt players Kühn, Schmidt and Drux went towards the defense with speed, in defense the German team was prepared for the 2.15-meter giant Dainis Krištopāns. They attacked him early, preventing gates. All of this was neglected from the 45th minute.

And Kristopans grew stronger. Either he came to easy goals himself and chased balls into the corner or he drew so many defenders that he only had to lift the ball over the German players to find a free teammate – often at the circle. Henrik Pekeler, who was supposed to defend against Krištopāns, said afterwards: “We have not found a solution against him, neither in the 6-0 formation nor in the 3-2-1 it worked.” Krištopāns, who will move from one top club (Skopje) to another (Paris), was the only one to play through every 60 minutes and scored seven times.

What was also missing: support from the goalkeepers. Jogi Bitter was allowed to play from the start, but his performance was only the minimum of what he actually can do (5 of 26 balls held). He said: “Now we don’t have to talk our heads up, we can play much better.” Andi Wolff, who played the last 20 minutes, did not hold a ball at all. For comparison: one of the Latvian goalkeepers plays in the third German league in Aurich, the other is full-time marketing manager of a Latvian start-up. You had a better quota.

Or to make it clearer elsewhere: Evars Klešniks, who played half the game in defense on the field, is 39 years old and plays in the German top division, his colleague Aivis Jurdzs is 36 years old and actually has a professional career already finished. They almost embarrassed Germany.

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