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10.11.2015, 10:16
Germany ready to spring a surprise at Poland 2016
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EHF EURO INSIGHTS: EHF Journalist Björn Pazen takes a closer look on the German team two months out of the EHF EURO
 

Germany ready to spring a surprise at Poland 2016

Germany are ready for the EHF EURO 2016 in Poland. This has been the clear signal the team sent at the victorious Supercup last weekend when they beat Brazil (29:20), Serbia (37:26) and Slovenia (31:28).

Despite a long list of injured players, the team of head coach Dagur Sigurdsson produced three stunning and dominant performances.

The main question ahead of the tournament was how Germany would cope with the absence of their line player duo and defence core Patrick Wiencek and Henrik Pekeler.

The answer was an impressive one: Youngsters Erik Schmidt and Finn Lemke were key players in all three matches.

And while Wience will definitely miss the EHF EURO 2016 due to a torn cruciate ligament, Pekeler is expected to return in the next weeks – and will be another option in defence, which still is the best part of the German side.

Behind this ‘great wall’, once more the German goalkeepers were outstanding.

Carsten Lichtlein currently enjoys the form of his life, despite his age of 35 and is likely to be the first choice goalkeeper in Poland.

For the second position, the race is open between the rising Andreas Wolff, who will transfer to THW Kiel in 2017, and Silvio Heinevetter.

At the moment Wolff has the odds in his favour to be part of the EURO squad – which would be a huge disappointment for former no. 1 goalkeeper Heinevetter.

Jumping in the spotlight

In attack, another problem seems to be solved: 20-year-old Paul Drux, arguably one of the best talents in recent years in German handball, will miss the EHF EURO due to a shoulder operation.

Hence the all-important left back position was vacant, but Steffen Fäth was a true replacement for Drux at the Supercup, firing (and scoring) on all cylinders at the Supercup, proving that he can be the first choice left back for the EHF EURO.

On the more experienced side, right back Steffen Weinhold is constantly improving and the two wings, Uwe Gensheimer and Patrick Groetzki, are as good as always.

And there are other options for these positions, too. Rune Dahmke (left wing) and Tobias Reichmann (right wing) proved that they can give Gensheimer and Groetzki the necessary time to rest at a tournament like the EHF EURO.

As Sigurdsson not only missed line players Wiencek and Pekeler but also Evgeni Pevnov at the Supercup, another player jumped into the spotlight: 21-year-old Jannik Kohlbacher, gold medallist with Germany at the Men’s 20 EHF EURO 2014, grabbed his chance.

The “raging bull” at the six-metre line was top scorer against Slovenia and might be another option for the EURO.

Silent expectations

So maybe German can already spring a surprise at Poland 2016 despite their tough preliminary group with Spain, Slovenia and Sweden.

The team’s biggest advantage is the fact that Germany courtesy of their seventh position at the World Championship 2015 in Qatar have already booked their ticket for the Olympic Games Qualification in April.

The pressure will be on Slovenia and Sweden who still fight for this next step towards Rio 2016.

Since Sigurdsson took over the team in September 2014, there seems to be only one way: up.

The squad’s rejuvenation has gone sensationally fast. Players, who were not known to the vast majority one year ago, have taken on a crucial role in the team, such as right back Fabian Wiede or line player Schmidt.

However, they are all aware that even an early EHF EURO elimination is possible.

“We should not overestimate our current performances, but continue on our way without hesitating,” said Sigurdsson after the Supercup.

He knows that more injuries can occur in the upcoming tough weeks full of Bundesliga and international club competition matches.

But the Supercup has proved that the squad is wide enough to cope with such cases.

12 years after Germany’s last EHF EURO medal (gold in 2004), the dream of more silverware is growing, even though nobody openly mentions it.

The final steps of preparation for the EHF EURO 2016 will be three test matches right before the start of the event.

On 5 January Germany play Tunisia, followed by a double-header against Iceland on 9/10 January.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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