The German national handball team started the European Championship with a hard-fought victory. In the 33:29 (17:18) against Belarus, left-hander Kai Häfner towered above.
He was the big pillar in the German game: left-hander Kai Häfner.
Alfred Gislason had the first two surprises ready before kick-off: Till Klimpke started in goal instead of Andreas Wolff, Christoph Steinert (compulsory game debut for the German national team at the age of 31) started on the right wing instead of Timo Kastening due to his defensive qualities. Lukas Zerbe had already been removed from the matchday squad in advance.
However, the DHB team could not confirm the first good impression – Philipp Weber, who was ailing during the dress rehearsal, resolutely refueled to make it 2-1. Klimpke couldn’t get a hand on the ball between the posts and the defense lacked aggression. At the front, Gislason’s protégés were prone to errors and developed too little penetrating power. The result: a 2:7 deficit after 11 minutes and the first time-out.
In this Gislason remained calm and relaxed, which was transferred to the team. Substitute Wolff introduced himself with a save, and the German game gained determination and depth. At 11:10, Erlangen’s uncompromising and efficient left-hander Steinert turned the game around (21st). Together with the always dangerous Kai Häfner, Steinert formed a strong right side.
Defense and goalkeeper insufficient
But Belarus showed just how well-rehearsed this team is in attack. Against pivot Artsem Karalek (5 goals/5 attempts) from the Polish top club Vive Kielce and Brest’s right winger Mikita Vailupau (6/6) there was no herb, which is why the DHB selection was 17:18 behind at the break. The lack of support from the goal was also a big problem: Wolff and Klimpke had accumulated only one (!) save in 30 minutes.
Also read: How Germany can surprise everyone – the kicker column by Bob Hanning
In a wild early phase, Melsungen’s backcourt shooter Julius Kühn made it to 19:19 at the second attempt. Shortly thereafter, Belarus lost their head a bit in attack, the German team pulled away to 25:21 (41st), driven by the tireless Häfner, later voted “Man of the Match”.
Schiller reliable – Wiencek sees red
Before the start of the final quarter of an hour, Belarus remembered and reduced the deficit to two goals (23:25) thanks to the second two-minute penalty for defense specialist Patrick Wiencek. In this phase it was a trump card that Göppingen’s left winger Marcel Schiller – heir to the throne of the retired Uwe Gensheimer – did not show any weakness from the seven-meter line. Kühn chased the ball into the goal from twelve meters as a sign of his current self-confidence (28:25, 50th).
Because the German defense, which only allowed eleven goals against after the change, continued to improve, a preliminary decision was made at the score of 32:27 (56th). The red card for Wiencek (third time penalty) didn’t change anything (58th). Due to the 33:29 opening success, the main round, which the two best teams in each group of four reach, is already closer.
In the second tournament game against Austria on Sunday (6 p.m., LIVE! on kicker), the German team wants to go straight to the action. The German neighbor starts against Poland on Friday evening.