Young guns ready to make a splash
This is the eighth article in a series of 24, presenting all participants at the Men's EHF EURO 2022 in Hungary and Slovakia.
Germany will compete in their 14th Men’s EHF EURO with a quite new team as coach Alfred Gislason has started a transition and integrated a number of young players. Therefore, the goals are not that high this time and sights are set to the long-term goal of a home championship in 2024.
Germany extended their impressive series to 20 straight victories in the EHF EURO qualifiers, leaving Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Estonia behind, and will face the Austrians again in a preliminary round group alongside Belarus and Poland.
Three questions ahead of the Men’s EHF EURO 2022:
Who is in, who is out?
After missing the semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympic Games, team captain Uwe Gensheimer and right back Steffen Weinhold retired from the national team, Hendrik Pekeler (best defender at the EHF EURO 2020) has announced a break, while other notable absentees are Paul Drux, Patrick Groetzki and Fabian Wiede.
This means we will definitely see some new names on-court in Bratislava, where Alfred Gislason will have his first EHF EURO as German national team coach. Among those hoping to play their first EHF EURO are Till Klimpke, Sebastian Heymann, Julian Köster, Hendrik Wagner and Djebril M’Bengue.
Is the German team internationally experienced enough to be successful?
Looking upon the provisional squad list, only five German players are signed by EHF Champions League clubs: Rune Dahmke, Patrick Wiencek (both Kiel), Johannes Golla (Flensburg), Andreas Wolff (Kielce) and M’Bengue (Porto).
Compared to top teams or even preliminary round opponent Belarus, this is not a lot. But playing in the highly competitive German Bundesliga can be compared to playing in European competition every weekend. Nevertheless, coach Alfred Gislason, three-time EHF Champions League winner as a coach, always mentions that he wants to have more players with Champions League experience.
Which young players can have their international breakthrough?
After younger players such as new team captain Johannes Golla or Timo Kastening have left their marks already since the EHF EURO 2020, an even younger generation is ready to take more responsibility. Mainly goalkeeper Till Klimpke and left back Sebastian Heymann - both All-star players at the Men’s 18 EHF EURO 2016 - have the abilities to arrive under the spotlight. Klimpke continues the series of strong German goalkeepers, while Heymann was an EHF Cup winner with Göppingen at the age of 17, before severe injuries have stunted his development in the last two years.
Another potential rising star is defensive specialist Julian Köster from second division team VfL Gummersbach, who was awarded best defender at the 2019 U19 World Championship when Germany won the silver medal.
Under the spotlight: Johannes Golla
Johannes Golla’s 24th birthday marked a new era of German handball: On this day, the line player steered Germany for the first time as team captain in an international match as they beat Portugal in Luxembourg. Golla is the youngest captain of a German men’s team in history and succeeds the legendary Uwe Gensheimer.
From his performances and personality, Golla is a leading figure, who grew rapidly since his debut in the national team in March 2019. The EHF EURO 2020 was his first major tournament, and mainly his transfer to Flensburg boosted the batch of German EHF Champions League participants. Golla is a perfect link between generations and definitely has all trust of the team and the coaching staff.
“We are definitely not among the favourites this time,” says head coach Alfed Gislason: “Nations such as Denmark, France, Norway or Spain are ahead of us because they have much more experience than our rejuvenated team.”
This is why Gislason only thinks step by step: “We want to proceed to the main round with maximum points, then we will see what is possible. But we are mainly aware of Belarus. They have a great coach and players, who play for Champions League clubs. This will be our toughest opponent, Austria and Poland are on an equal level.”
For his team, he hopes that all players arrive healthy and fit for the two test matches against Serbia right before the EHF EURO start. “We count on a wide squad, but we do not have a superstar in our team, who can decide matches on his own.”
Seven German players had their first international senior matches against Portugal in November, and five players from the provisional squad list have not played a match for the senior team. From those potential EURO players, only left back Kai Häfner, line player Patrick Wiencek and goalkeeper Andreas Wolff have more than 100 caps.
What the numbers say
Since the premiere of the EHF EURO in 1994, Germany have only missed on final tournament - the 2014 edition in Denmark after two defeats against Montenegro in qualification. Germany were the first team to hold the whole cabinet of EHF EURO silverware already in 2004 after winning bronze in 1998, silver in 2002 and becoming European champions in Slovenia. They had to wait 12 years for their next medal, winning gold again against Spain in Poland.
Men’s EHF EURO participations (including 2022): 14
Champions (2): 2004, 2016
Silver (1): 2002
Bronze (2): 1998