Given up? Did goalkeeper Andreas Wolff actually say that the German team had “given up” towards the end of the game against the French? No, national coach Alfred Gislason didn’t want to leave it that way on ZDF, the broadcasting television station. He was “not at all of the opinion that we gave up on us,” said Gislason after the quarter-final against France, a little sour because of his goalkeeper’s flippant formulation: “On the contrary, we continued, but we threw badly.”
For almost two weeks, the national coach had a lot of fun with his team at this World Cup, this impression should remain after the elimination, that was important to Gislason. In fact, his team hadn’t given up, even if a two-goal defeat would have sounded better than the seven-goal defeat on Wednesday evening in Gdansk. The result was 28:35 (16:16) more relentless than the course of the game had long suggested. Because: The German team had the French on the roll at times, had led and shown over 40 minutes that they could be able to defeat this world-class team – or bring it to the brink of defeat.
But then Gislason’s team showed where they were missing compared to the French. A team like the French would not have thrown away a lead twice as easily as the German team did in the first half (11:7) and after the break (19:17). And no, a team like the French would not have allowed themselves a time-out of eight minutes in the second half of an important World Cup quarter-finals, in which they did not score a goal.
The DHB team can’t even fly home and let the frustration run wild – it’s still about the placements
“Badly thrown,” Gislason had said. The analysis can be that simple, in fact. The French goalkeeper Remy Desbonnet simply caught several balls from the German backcourt. Slap, with two hands. That’s the maximum penalty for a backcourt thrower, you rarely see that at this level.
But the French will remain the French for the time being, and the Germans will remain the Germans, who have not been able to defeat any of the top nations in major tournaments for years, not even at the 2023 World Cup. France continue in the semifinals, on Friday in Stockholm against hosts Sweden. And for the Germans? If it gets complicated, just fly home and let your frustration run free is not an option. The logic of a handball world championship says that every place in the final account must be played out. So two more games of dubious sporting value follow, the first on Friday afternoon against African champions Egypt, the second on Sunday. Places five through eight are at stake; with fifth place you would at least have the chance to host one of four Olympic qualifying tournaments. “Fifth place is a great goal,” said captain Johannes Golla. Did he really mean that at that moment?
With a little distance, the Germans will draw a mixed, probably slightly positive World Cup balance. You have clearly improved in terms of results. Twelfth place at the 2021 World Cup in Egypt, two years later at least eighth place. There were games in which the young team was enthusiastic; There are fresh handball players in the country, such as Juri Knorr, Julian Köster or Lukas Mertens, who can be trusted to play a very good (in Knorr’s case perhaps even outstanding) role in German handball in the coming decade.
This is where Gislason started. Germany “still has an inexperienced team in key positions,” said the Icelander. All four nations that are now in the semi-finals are one step further. He was “quite sure that all players will learn from their mistakes,” said Gislason: “We can take a lot of positive things with us. A lot makes me feel confident.”
There are two problems from the field of sports psychology that are depressing
But secretly they thought at the German Handball Federation (DHB) that they could be a little closer to a team like France, closer to the semifinals, which should definitely be reached in a year, at the home European Championship in 2024. But until then, the team has to develop properly. There are two problems from the field of sports psychology that weigh on the mind – and as is well known, it is twice as difficult to eliminate them.
It is a recurring dilemma that befalls the Germans in major tournaments: the team plays very well to well, but takes time-outs, as in the second half against France: eight to ten minutes without a goal, the game is then lost. Gislason had worked hard to ensure that this topic did not come up again at this World Cup. Well it came, in the quarterfinals. “If we want to play for the titles, we have to make games consistent over 60 minutes,” said captain Golla.
In addition, there are teams that, when leading themselves, become more secure with every goal, more self-confident, let the opponent come and counter with ice cold. The Germans were far from that. Twice they led by several goals, twice they then played two numbers worse until it was France’s turn again. There were also such tendencies in the last main round game, in the defeat against Norway. You have to be “calmer and more confident” in these situations, said goalkeeper Wolff. This defeat is a “lesson”. This time the national coach did not contradict.