Dhe German handball players did not pass the first test at world-class level at the World Cup, which has been so exciting so far. Two days before the quarterfinals, the DHB selection lost to Norway 26:28 (16:18) on Monday. As both teams had previously qualified for the knockout stages, the game in Katowice was of little consequence. In front of around 4,500 spectators, Juri Knorr was the best thrower in the German team with eight goals. In the quarter-finals on Wednesday, a similar heavyweight awaits the team of national coach Alfred Gislason: then it’s against the previously undefeated Olympic champion and record world champion France.
Even the game against Norway should become a yardstick for the German team. After five wins from five World Cup games, the answer to the question: How good is the DHB selection really? Norway were the first world-class team Germany met at this World Cup. And it showed that the young German team is very close to this level. Although by no means everything worked. By far not.
The main reasons why the DHB selection was able to keep the game tight throughout had two names: Juri Knorr and Andreas Wolff. The young director and the again outstanding goalkeeper shaped the game of the German team, in other parts of the team it didn’t fit as well. The defense was not in top form against this top team, the second big problem was converting chances. But the German team stayed tuned.
Wolff comes into play quickly
Weaknesses that a team like the Norwegians – who also didn’t show their best performance – know how to exploit. This was also due to the fact that Joel Birlehm, who was surprisingly called up by Gislason from the start, did not find his way into the game at all. The Icelander took the 25-year-old out again in the ninth minute and brought Wolff into play. And it was worth it.
Just a few seconds after being substituted on, the 31-year-old made his first strong save. Until the final whistle he let several more consequences. That was also necessary because the German defensive continued to find stability. But at least there was Knorr and Wolff. Other players like the enormously important captain Johannes Golla or veteran Patrick Groetzki had their difficulties. But against such a top nation, everything has to be right to take the lead. However, this did not succeed at first. Norway led by two goals at the break.
“I think we can finish a little more effectively,” said DHB sports director Axel Kromer at half-time. “In terms of the game system, we can’t do much differently, we’re doing well. But so did the Norwegians.” After the change of sides, however, the Norwegians dwindled and failed a number of times due to the outstanding Wolff. The only problem was that the German team sometimes missed the best opportunities. Nevertheless, it remained tight throughout the game. And that was perhaps the most important finding of the evening from a German point of view: that you can keep up, even at this level. Even if it wasn’t quite enough in the end.