With ease and consistency, Germany hope for new heights
The rejuvenated Germany team are the perfect example of how close joy can be to tears at major handball tournaments. Twice in a row, in 2018 and 2019, the team of Dutch-born head coach Henk Groener were close to the semi-finals. Twice, they failed in the last stretch.
Now, in Denmark, the first goal for Germany is to make to it to the main round against top sides such as Norway and Romania – only in their duel of neighbours, against Poland, are the team viewed as the favourites. In case of a perfect run, the semis might be in reach.
Will the ‘one-goal curse’ come to an end?
The EHF EURO 2018 in France, the penultimate main round against Hungary. Germany were ahead most of the match, but the last shot of Emily Bölk hit the post – and Hungary jumped for joy as they took a 26:25 victory. With a win, Germany would have at least played in the 5/6 placement match, maybe even for the medals.
The World Championship 2019 in Japan, the penultimate main round match against Serbia. 20 seconds to play, 28:28. Germany in attack, turnover, penalty shot for Serbia with the final buzzer, goal – and a final score of 28:29. A draw would have been enough for Germany to make it to the semi-finals and book a ticket for a spot at the Olympic Qualification Tournament. Later on, they lost against Norway and then Sweden in the 7/8 placement match and therefore even missed the chance for a ticket to Tokyo.
Now, in Denmark, the Germans hope to end this curse. Funnily enough, they could end up having their penultimate main round match against either against Hungary or Serbia.
Will club-level international experience have an impact on Germany’s performance?
Many German national team players changed their clubs last summer. Many of them made it abroad, mainly to Hungary: Alicia Stolle, Julia Behnke and Emily Bölk now play for FTC in the Champions League; second goalkeeper Ann-Kathrin Giegerich joined Debrecen; and number one, Dinah Eckerle, moved to Siofok – but has already left Hungary to sign with Champions League participant Metz. Shenia Minevskaja went from France (Brest) to Romania (Valcea). The only one to return to Germany, was Xenia Smits, arriving at Bietigheim from Metz.
Besides these leading players, a strong block from Bietigheim forms the EHF EURO 2020 squad, and the team can count on much more international experience overall. “We need players, who constantly face top players from top clubs in top competitions, no matter if they play for German clubs or abroad,” is the motto of Henk Groener.
What could be the key to success?
Looking at Germany’s top results in the last major events, such as beating Norway in 2018 or the Netherlands on the path to their world title in 2019, it has always been the combination of strong defence with ease and speed in attack. When the players started thinking too much and lost this fluidity and consistency, the tide turned.
They depend on constantly strong goalkeeping and easy goals. The problems in the previous years were the shooting efficiency on counter attacks and positional attacks. If players such as sharp shooters Emily Bölk and Alicia Stolle or fast-break expert Amelie Berger are on a roll, the journey in Denmark could take them far.
In contrast to the German men, who missed the qualification for the EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark, the German women have been part of all 14 EHF EURO tournaments. But they have only taken one medal: in the very first EHF EURO 1994 on home ground, they were defeated by Denmark in the final, in revenge for Germany’s victory in the 1993 World Championship final.
Since then, Germany made it to two semi-finals, in 2004 and 2006, but finished in lucky fourth position in both.
1976: 2nd (GDR)
1980: 3rd (GDR)