Viktor Kireev was the visible example of the impact of two weeks of European Championships. The goalkeeper of the Russian handball team injured his knee in the second half of the last game, hobbled across the field and later had to be supported on the way to the dressing room. In the end, such a tournament is physical torture for many players, the strain is high. The bitter, because narrow 29:30 defeat of the Russians against the German team didn’t exactly make the pain any more bearable.
As far as we know, the German internationals boarded the plane to Frankfurt am Main on Wednesday morning without any further serious injuries. The players who survived the tournament in Bratislava without a corona infection and had a happy ending with the win over Russia were exhausted and happy. Happy to have put the “most peculiar tournament of all” behind him, according to national coach Alfred Gislason. In the official statement, the Germans end up in seventh or eighth place, that still depended on the games on Wednesday evening (n.Red.) in the other main round group.
That sounds reasonable given the fact that the German Handball Federation (DHB) announced a rebuild six months ago and was slowed down by a severe corona outbreak during the days in Bratislava. However, the performance was not glossed over – a good sign. »We will have to take further steps. Regardless of the circumstances: We don’t want to stay in seventh or eighth place, we want to go up,” said Axel Kromer, the DHB’s sports director. At the same time, he combined the demand with praise for the performance in the final 60 minutes: “We were able to use an absolute power and energy performance to win. We can be proud of that.«
The crazy days in Slovakia could not fulfill the original purpose. The newly formed team should get used to each other, find each other, get used to each other on and off the field. Of the 17 actors who flew to Bratislava on January 12, only three were still on the plane on Wednesday. The rest had already been taken home by ambulance because of a corona infection. In between there was a real mess, new corona cases were reported from day to day and more players from Germany were caught up. Nevertheless, the tournament brought key insights.
“There are people on this team with little experience, but they have courage. That’s a beautiful prospect,” said Johannes Bitter. The 39-year-old goalkeeper had to resign because four other keepers were out. Suddenly he was on the field with colleagues whom he had previously only known from duels in the Bundesliga. He hadn’t even met Julian Köster there. The 21-year-old plays in the second division at VfL Gummersbach and is a discovery in the German team. With Köster there is hope that a new squad of backcourt players will grow up in Germany. 22-year-old Luca Witzke from Leipzig and Sebastian Heymann from Göppingen, who is one year older, are also among them, but were slowed down in Slovakia by the Covid 19 pathogen. Wetzlar’s 23-year-old keeper Till Klimpke and the outside players Lukas Mertens (25) from Magdeburg and Lukas Zerbe (26) from Lemgo also promise a lot for the future.
Johannes Golla has emerged as the undisputed leader of the pack. The pivot from Flensburg was made captain of the team a few months ago and he filled that role almost perfectly. The 24-year-old showed world-class performances, was a role model for commitment and established himself without big words, but through his appearance as a leading player in the new German team. National coach Alfred Gislason raves about his captain. “He played his role outstandingly, you can’t do much better than that,” said the Icelander and tried a flattering comparison: “He reminds me a lot of Markus Ahlm in Kiel. I’ve always called it a kind of diesel: when it runs, it doesn’t stop. Golli put in an unbelievable performance throughout the tournament.« Ahlm was the outstanding pivot when Gislason and THW Kiel scooped all the titles.
The thought of titles drives Golla. He looked two years ahead. In 2024 the next European Championship will take place in Germany. “It’s a goal everyone is passionate about. We will do everything we can to be as prepared as possible there at the latest,” Golla explained. The Flensburg resident is convinced that the crazy circumstances in Bratislava can help to be fully competitive at the home European Championship. It is to be hoped that the pandemic will be over by then.