When the best are playing, the Germans go on vacation

AAs a handball fan, national coach Alfred Gislason will have liked the performances in Cologne. tension, speed, sophistication, heaviness; it was all there before FC Barcelona defended their title on Sunday night. The only problem from a German point of view: players who are suitable for the national coach were almost completely absent.

From his seat in the stands, Gislason had seen goalkeeper Andreas Wolff inconsolable that his Polish team from Kielce had lost the seven-meter throw title. Wolff had kept Kielce in the game with an excellent performance. The eccentric keeper from Euskirchen in the jersey of the German Handball Federation (DHB) has not appeared at this level for a long time, and so Gislason at least took the realization with him that Wolff can be world class.

In addition, French, Spanish, Danish and Polish professionals, among others, left their mark on this “Final Four”. After a grueling season, the handball offered was even more dynamic, high-class and richer in tricks than last, which was also emphasized by those involved, as if they themselves were surprised at how much petrol was left in the tank when Cologne called for the season highlight – and that in front of 20,000 spectators.

National player on vacation

So while Dika Mem, Alex Duschebayev, Rasmus Lauge and Tomasz Gebala were showing off in their club shirts (and not just them), Gislason’s internationals were on holiday.

The national coach had last breathed air when he told the “Mannheimer Morgen” that he had imagined the job at the DHB to be completely different, namely with more time for training and development. But there aren’t. And what Gislason has in players in key field positions does not come from top German clubs, let alone from the European master class. The hustle and bustle in Cologne around the stars of the scene sent an unpleasant signal for the DHB: When the most important club title in European handball is played, the German elite players just watch. Nobody should therefore have exaggerated expectations of the DHB team,

Again and again before Gislason, national coaches demanded that their national players have to acquire competitive toughness at the highest level in order to be there in January when the EHF and IHF play their major tournaments. The next one is coming up in January 2023: the World Cup in Poland and Sweden. Gislason will only have a few days with his players before the tournament.

And while the competing nations for top ranks all have several players in Champions League clubs, Gislason has three: goalkeeper Wolff, captain Johannes Golla and soon playmaker Philipp Weber. As is well known, the Kiel veterans Wiencek, Weinhold and Pekeler avoid the hardships of the national team – something Alfred Gislason regrets, especially in relation to Wiencek: The defense chief was impressive in front and behind on both days.

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