The German women's national handball team has developed at the European Championships from outsiders to medal candidates. And her coach thinks: They do not know how good they are.
A coach can do a lot to advance his team, but at some point his options are limited. Henk Groener knows that and maybe a few days ago he almost casually said that sentence. "Maybe the girls still remember how good they are," noted the Dutchman, who is currently in France with the German handball women. He said: The conviction to be able to compete with the best has to develop inside a team.
At the European Championships, the selection of the German Handball Federation (DHB) started as outsiders just over a week ago, and because the proteges of Groener last left the impression that they are just about to become aware of their own opportunities, is from the outsider meanwhile become a contender for the semi-finals. If the Germans win against Hungary on Sunday afternoon (15 clock) in Nancy, they can actually move into the medal round with another success on Wednesday against the Netherlands.
Of course, the sentences that bring together the German women and a medal still include the subjunctive, but before the start of the tournament, such phrases were not yet formed. Since Friday night and the impressive 29:23 victory of the DHB selection at the beginning of the main round against Spain thoughts are allowed in the direction of the semi-finals. This is not because the Germans beat the team from southern Europe, but because of the naturalness with which they did it. After 30 minutes, the encounter was decided because the Germans at this time 17: 9 led and had simply overrun their counterpart. "The girls have played into a frenzy," praised Groener later. The national coach stood on the sidelines, applauded his players and had almost nothing left to do – Groener experienced the ideal state in his job, because his team worked without his intervention.
The team shows a quality with which the men won gold in 2016
This condition represents for the German handball women no automatic, even against the physically robust Hungarians is a performance fluctuation possible. Groener, who trained the Dutch women between 2009 and 2016 and led them to the top of the world, did not start work at the DHB until January. The German women are the second youngest team of the European Championship. Wave troughs would not be surprising, but logical. Unexpected, however, are the heights that experienced a newly formed team at this European Championships. In the 33:32 opening victory against defending champion Norway, the Germans grew beyond themselves, they dominated Spain against their opponents and therefore have four points on the credit side.
Almost four years ago, the German men stormed the title at the European Championships in Poland completely unexpectedly, because within the tournament they reached a level that was not foreseeable before. It does not do the women justice to derive a similar expectation now, but the team of Henk Groener shows a quality with which the German men won the gold medal in 2016: In each game, a new heroine is born.
Dinah Eckerle stood out against Spain. The goalkeeper kept what to hold and now and then another ball. The 23-year-old is emblematic of the potential that dormant in the German team. For years, the Leonbergerin is considered a great talent, in France she is for the first time at a major tournament as the number one between the posts – and grows on the tasks. The Germans are not just dependent on the top form of Eckerle. In the previous games, Emily Bölk, 20, Julia Behnke, 25, and Meike Schmelzer, 25, were other match winners in Riesentalent who have not yet completed their individual development.
"The tournament is fun and we will fight until the end," said Eckerle after her gala performance at the beginning of the main round. In the direction of Hungary and the Netherlands, this sentence can also be understood as a threat.