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14.03.2018, 16:20
Germany’s biggest transition in a decade
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FEATURE: The EHF EURO Qualification double-header against Spain next week marks the start of a new era for Germany, with Henk Groener as new coach but without eight players who retired after the World Championship
 

Germany’s biggest transition in a decade

It is a whole new start, not just an ordinary transition. The German national women’s team are facing their biggest change since years.

Many coaches have come and gone in the years since Germany reached the semi-final of the EHF EURO 2008 in FYR Macedonia. But this time, it is not only a new coach but a whole new team, which are restarting in the qualification for the EHF EURO 2018 in France with the double-header against Spain on 21 March at home in Stuttgart and 24 March away in San Sebastian.

Since Michael Biegler started his ‘medal-on-home-court-mission’ in April 2016, it had always been clear that his tenure would finish with the end of the World Championship 2017.

After a strong performance and a sixth-place finish at the EHF EURO 2016 in Sweden, the German hopes were high to make it to Hamburg for the final weekend of the World Championship. But the dream ended in tears with a clear Last 16 defeat to Denmark.

After Biegler’s scheduled leave, the era of Henk Groener has started. The Dutch coach is the father of the success of ‘Oranje,’ leading them from zero to hero as they reached the final of the World Championship 2015 and the semi-finals of the 2016 Olympic Games.

Several weeks after the Olympics, Groener surprisingly resigned and only a few days later Helle Thomsen took over the Dutch women’s team.

Former Dutch international Groener had played and coached in Germany before and therefore has no language problem at all. Officially presented in January, it was already known during the World Championship that he would take over the German side.

Eight players left

Groener is an expert in teambuilding and bringing young players to a higher level. He seems exactly the coach Germany need at the moment as Clara Woltering, Nadja Mansson, Katja Kramarczyk, Jenny Karolius, Isabell Klein, Friederike Gubernatis, Svenja Huber, and Kerstin Wohlbold all retired from the national team after the World Championship.

Also, two key players, Kim Naidzinavicius and Anne Hubinger, are out injured until the end of the season. And against Spain, super talent Emily Bölk and Alicia Stolle will be missing due to injuries as well.

As a result, only four (!) of the 17 players selected for the EHF EURO 2016 will also be part of the squad for the upcoming two matches.

Despite all the injury worries, Groener is confident to continue the series of the German team, which have never missed an EHF EURO finals event since the premiere in 1994.

At a first preparation camp mid-February the new team met the new coaching staff, including former Dutch national team goalkeeper and Bundesliga player Debbie Kljin and former German international Heike Horstmann.

“We did not talk about the World Championship anymore, we only look ahead,” Groener said. “Like the Spaniards, we want to win both matches. But those games are already the start of the preparation for the last two EHF EURO qualifiers in May and June, too.”

Joy and passion

Germany sensationally dropped a point (26:26) against Lithuania on home court in September, so the rematch at the Baltic Sea can be crucial. The last opponent will be Turkey, which Germany clearly beat 30:16 in the away match in October.

Groener is satisfied with the start of his mission: “Joy, passion and will characterise this new team.”

Like with the Dutch side in the past, communication is again an important part of his job.

“We talk openly about everything. On and off the court, the players have their say,” Groener said. “And in terms of communication, the start was very positive. But of course, a new hierarchy will have to be built up. The players want to have clear roles in the structure of the team.”

Though many experienced players left, the captain is still on board: playmaker Anna Loerper. Also, two players have returned after they were no part of Biegler’s squad: line player Luisa Schulze and right wing Marlene Zapf.

After two-time EHF Champions League winners Woltering and Kramarczyk both retired, young Dinah Eckerle is the new German number 1 goalkeeper. The only player from a foreign club is left back Xenia Smits, who plays for French champions and EHF Champions League Quarter-finalists Metz Handball.

The German squad for the EHF EURO 2018 qualifiers against Spain:

Goalkeepers: Dinah Eckerle (Thüringer HC), Isabell Roch (TuS Metzingen)
Left wing: Ina Großmann (TuS Metzingen), Franziska Müller (HSG Blomberg-Lippe)
Left back: Xenia Smits (Metz HB/FRA), Shenia Minevskaja (TuS Metzingen)
Centre back: Anna Loerper (SG BBM Bietigheim), Angie Geschke (VfL Oldenburg), Alina Grijseels (Borussia Dortmund), Caroline Müller (Borussia Dortmund)
Right back: Maren Weigel (TuS Metzingen)
Right wing: Marlene Zapf (TuS Metzingen), Maike Schirmer (Buxtehuder SV)
Line players: Luisa Schulze (SG BBM Bietigheim), Julia Behnke (TuS Metzingen), Meike Schmelzer (Thüringer HC)


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ew / ts
 
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