Bizarre European Handball Championship – a German player even walks to the hall
The national handball team receives a lesson from defending champion Spain without eleven sick players. Above all, 15 minutes are crucial in the first EM bankruptcy. Half-right Christoph Steinert takes part in the game in a completely strange way.
MThe German handball team has already had good experiences with subsequent nominations. At the European Championships six years ago in Poland, for example, it was a certain Kai Häfner who fixed the blatant injury problems in the squad, entered the tournament late and, as a largely undescribed last resort, scored the crucial goal in extra time against Norway in the semi-finals. Two days later, a team of nobodies who dubbed themselves the Bad Boys won their last title by beating Spain in the final.
However, the omens before the reunion with the best Iberian ball throwers on Thursday evening in Bratislava were completely different. While Germany was missing a total of five players injured when it won the European Championship in 2016, there were now even eleven players who were not available for the first main round game: The 2016 heroes Kai Häfner and Andreas Wolff had to pass, as did Timo Kastening, Till Klimpke and Sebastian Heymann , Djibril M’Bengue, Julius Kühn, Hendrik Wagner, Marcel Schiller, Lukas Mertens and Luca Witzke – after the corona virus had relentlessly struck the German entourage.
No other team in the continental title fights in Hungary and Slovakia has been so badly affected as the selection of national coach Alfred Gislason. Croatia has reported nine positive cases, Poland has six infected players, Iceland five, the Netherlands and Russia four each, Sweden three, Spain two and Olympic champions France one. After all, three main round participants did not even record a corona case during the tournament: world champion Denmark, third place in the European Championship Norway and Montenegro.
In the “Corona Hell” of Bratislava
The continental association EHF rejected a request from the German Handball Federation (DHB) on Wednesday evening to relocate the first main round game on Thursday afternoon. And so a better B team actually had to compete in times of high incidence in Bratislava’s “Corona Hell”.
After all, half-right Christoph Steinert, who tested positive on Wednesday, was back in the game – and in a completely crazy way. After he found out in the afternoon that all the tests he had carried out afterwards had been negative, he set off on foot to the hall a few hundred meters from the team headquarters. The teammates had already left by bus.
“One hour before the game, I suddenly had all the feelings in the world at the same time, it was a huge mess,” the 32-year-old later explained the bizarre circumstances. “I got a call that I was a false positive and the three tests that were done afterwards are all negative. Then I quickly packed everything I found in my room, put on a pair of pants and started sprinting.”
15 Fatal Minutes
Steinert was actually in the hall at kick-off, but initially took a seat on the bench. The Spaniards had to cope with two short-term failures: former Bundesliga professional Joan Canellas and backcourt player Ian Tarrafeta had to pass after positive PCR tests.
The larger bloodletting on the part of the Germans was initially not noticeable in the game. On the contrary: The selection of national coach Gislason, who had never played together in this formation, kept up well. In the middle of the first half, right winger Lukas Zerbe scored the first lead at 8:7, and everything was fine from the German point of view until 12:12 through playmaker Philipp Weber – but then they collapsed.
Seven minutes before and eight minutes after the break, they were without a goal of their own – an eternity in handball. The clever Spaniards, who had already secured the European title in 2018 and 2020, had already pulled away to 19:13 (38th). It was the preliminary decision in the game. In the end it was 23:29 (12:14) from the German point of view.
“That was definitely our worst game so far,” said “pedestrian” Steinert after the final whistle. “We made an incredible number of mistakes up front and weren’t that effective in attack for a long time. There was too much going on for us to survive against such a good team.”