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03.01.2016, 18:23
Incredible series of injuries hits Germany ahead of EHF EURO
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EHF EURO COUNTDOWN #5: Head coach Dagur Sigurdsson has to play without five of his first-choice stars, but he remains confident that his team can compensate for any loss
 

Incredible series of injuries hits Germany ahead of EHF EURO

In 2014 the German players were forced to follow the EHF EURO in Denmark from home, but things have considerably changed.

Since Dagur Sigurdsson took over the team in September 2014, Germany are on their way back to the handball top, but injuries to some of the team’s key player may prevent them from springing a surprise at the EHF EURO 2016.

The team's strengths:

It is the team that counts more for head coach Sigurdsson than the individual skills of players. And it is a sort of tradition that Germany are successful in handball when they have a strong defence.

Building up a ‘wall of concrete’ in front of strong goalkeepers is the base for everything in Sigurdsson’s game plan.

Another German strength is the depth of the squad. In previous years the team had to rely on a limited number of key players, now they do not anymore.

But Sigurdsson needs to incorporate a lot of changes ahead of the final tournament, as no less than five of his first-choice players are injured and will miss the EHF EURO 2016: Team captain Uwe Gensheimer, right wing Patrick Groetzki, left back Paul Drux, line player Patrick Wiencek and even Michael Allendorf, thought to take over Gensheimer’s role, are all out.

When Sigurdsson took over, he started a major transition within the team as he pushed and supported young players who will now have to take the responsibility in Poland.

The team’s weakness

The left back, on which all world class teams have a world class player, is a weakness in the German squad.

After some years without any star on this position, Paul Drux (20) rose like Phoenix from the ashes in Qatar. But the Füchse Berlin talent will miss the EHF EURO in Poland after he had to undergo a shoulder surgery in summer.

Sigurdsson’s second choices on this position are rare: One is Steffen Fäth, who does not have a huge amount of international experience, the other one is young gun Christian Dissinger.

Furthermore, Germany will miss three of its more seasoned players. With THW Kiel’s Patrick Wiencek (pictured below) out after he tore his ACL, the defence lost its cornerstone and the attack lost a highly efficient line player. But players like Henrik Pekeler, Erik Schmidt or Jannik Kohlbacher can be valuable replacements.

A more serious problem results from Gensheimer’s and Groetzki’s injuries: not only are they highly experienced, but they had also been key for the newly implemented counter attack game plan.

With Allendorf also being sidelined, 20-year-old Rune Dahmke is the only remaining left wing in the squad.

In general, the biggest weakness might be the lack of international experience, as only three of Sigurdsson’s 17 players currently thought to be in the EHF EURO squad are contracted to VELUX EHF Champions League clubs.

The team’s star

At the age of 35 and with more than 200 internationals to his name, Carsten Lichtlein is by far the most experienced player in the German EHF EURO squad.

For many years the goalkeeper was standing in the shadows of his counterparts such as Henning Fritz, Johannes Bitter and Silvio Heinevetter, but he has always been patient – and eventually this paid off.

Under Dagur Sigurdsson as head coach, Lichtlein, who was part of the team – albeit with little to no playing time – at the EHF EURO 2004 and the World Championship 2007 when Germany came first, became the first-choice goalkeeper.

Together with Andreas Wolff he is expected to form one of the best goalkeeper duos at the EHF EURO.

Lichtlein is an extremely emotional goalkeeper who is known for his brilliant cooperation with the German defence. He is also famous for his mental stability and reflexes.

The hidden gem

“Who is Erik Schmidt?” This question was asked many a time when Dagur Sigurdsson named his squad for the World Championship 2015 in Qatar.

But after the tournament the 23-year-old line player had proven that he was the right player to pick.

Even though he had gone through the German youth and junior teams, he was not on many people’s radar. He had played for second division team Friesenheim and somehow, suddenly he was nominated for a test match against Switzerland in September 2014.

Only three months later Schmidt found his name on the squad list for the World Championship.

He currently plays for Hannover-Burgdorf in the German Bundesliga. Schmidt is expected to replace the injured Wiencek in defence but also act as a powerful and unstoppable line player in attack.

The outlook

Three of four teams of Group C in Wroclaw, all but Sweden, have already booked their tickets for an Olympic qualification tournament, so they can play without this specific pressure.

Everything is possible for injury-hit Germany – from an early elimination after the preliminary round to a spot in the semi-finals.

This group is that delicately balanced that any goal might be decisive in the end.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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