Andreas Wolff felt the need for rest. “First of all, sit down and relax in the changing room”, that was the immediate wish of the German national handball goalkeeper on Saturday evening. He deserved it, no question about it. The statistics counted seventeen saves for him, three of them seven meters, from four attempts by the opponent, mind you – that was the record of a “player of the game”, when Wolff was also awarded.
But there were also values that explained why the Germans, after a somewhat difficult start, finally prevailed against the Netherlands with 33:26 and are therefore early in the quarter-finals of this world championship.
That sounds obvious, but it was hard work against the neighbors, especially in the first half. But because, thanks to high-intensity running work, the strategy of slowing down the speed game of the Dutch and directing it to the outside worked, because the Germans went to work with an outstanding mentality and because they went 5-0 straight after the break from 15 :12 to 20:12, it became a festive evening for German handball, which caused great emotions under the roof of the hall in Katowice. “Oh, how is that nice”, that was the accompanying music for the last few seconds – after which some of the German players seemed much more excited than the decidedly cool Wolff.
Christoph Steinert, for example, who spoke of an “incredible amount of work” but fully savored the reward of happiness: “more intensity, more atmosphere, more emotions” than in previous games. From the point of view of the Germans, things should go on like this. At the end of the main round, Alfred Gislason’s team meets Norway on Monday evening (8.30 p.m. / ARD live), it’s still about first or second place in the main round group, but what is certain is that the journey will then continue to Gdansk, to the quarter-finals on Wednesday against Spain or France.
“These are two opponents of the absolute top category,” said Wolff, opponents that the Germans have not had before at the World Cup. First of all, Wolff was able to celebrate a “fighting top performance” from the whole team against the Netherlands. The best thrower was Juri Knorr with nine hits, six of which were seven meters.
Toiled and toiled
On Saturday, the German team moved into the late program for the first time at this World Cup. The “Spodek” was better filled than before, which meant that the atmosphere was (almost) under the roof of this arena built in the shape of a flying saucer. The Dutch, as was immediately evident, had not come to annoy the Germans, but to beat them. They immediately took a 2-0 lead and the Germans followed behind. Almost everything went through Knorr, some of it well, some – and more than usual at this World Cup – but also not so, missed throws and bad passes were just as much a part of his game as brilliant passes and converted seven meters.
In general, the attack didn’t go smoothly at first. The Germans didn’t manage to get the wingers Mertens and Groetzki into play, and the way through the middle was tough too. At 4: 4 it was the DHB selection for the first time, a seven-metre throw held by Wolff then paved the way for the first lead. But even a 6:4 and a 10:8 did not bring the decisive change of direction, after 23 minutes it was 10:10. Gislason made a lot of changes in the backcourt, with young Köster being the one who did the best work before the break. Three field goals were the best for the German team.
Groetzki in top form
It was a duel in which you had to tug and pull, which you could sometimes take quite literally: it was a stress test for the jerseys too. Any slack could be one too many. But Gislason’s team didn’t allow that, the defense was toiling and toiling, and Wolff was now more and more on the spot. Knorr’s fourth converted penalty brought the first three-goal lead in the 27th minute, and it was the same at the break: 15:12.
After that, it paid off that the Germans had recently been able to conserve their forces. The phase after the break brought the decision, now Groetzki was in top form. After bailing a rebound from within his own circle, he yelled his emotions out at the crowd. From now on the Germans had everything in their hands.