Balance sheet of the European Handball Championships: Olympic qualification and coaching question: What's next for the German handball players

When Denmark and France played the final of the European Handball Championship, the German national players were looking for a place among the fans.

Balance sheet of the European Handball Championships: Olympic qualification and coaching question: What's next for the German handball players

When Denmark and France played the final of the European Handball Championship, the German national players were looking for a place among the fans. The TV cameras showed captain Johannes Golla and backcourt player Julian Köster or the goalkeepers Andreas Wolff and David Späth, who, like the other 19,750 spectators in Cologne's Lanxess Arena, saw a high-class duel between the two best teams in the world. The collection of world-class players on both sides impressively demonstrated how to play at the highest level. It was a furious handball spectacle that the French narrowly won in the seconds before the end of extra time.

The faces of the Germans spoke volumes. You could see the disappointment of losing the game for third place against Sweden. They had wanted more, but had failed because of their own inadequacy. In the end, they had no chance against an opponent who played only slightly weaker than Denmark or France, who are currently the measure of all things in world handball. The Germans - together with two or three other teams - are simply the best of the rest." The continental tournament has once again shown this clearly.

The final was a kind of final training course for the German team in the stands. Looking back on his own performance, captain Johannes Golla said: "We have taken a huge step forward in defense. With new players in the squad, we have been given new options that can be very valuable in the future. That was a step forward." Playmaker Juri Knorr also spoke of “a big step”. Knorr, who is only 23 years old and made it into the European Championship all-star team alongside keeper Wolff, also warned: "We have to get better so that we can consistently get to the semi-finals. But it won't be a sure-fire success."

The next big goal is now Qlympia qualification, which the DHB selection initially missed due to fourth place at the European Championships. Now she wants to get her ticket to Paris at a tournament in March, for which she had already qualified (as fifth in the World Cup). The opponents there are Austria, Croatia and Algeria. The first two teams travel to Paris. "It's doable. It's realistic that we can progress," says Renars Uscins, 21 years old and one of the big young hopes in German handball.

But it's not a sure-fire success either. As a reminder: the German team struggled to a draw against Austria at the European Championships. And against Croatia the team almost fell apart. However, the psychological factor played a big role in the crushing defeat in the main round of the European Championship. At this point the Germans had already qualified for the semi-finals.

And another question remains: What will become of national coach Alfred Gislason? The 64-year-old Icelander's contract expires in the summer. At the Olympics, he will definitely be on the sidelines when the team reaches the tournament. But what happened beyond that remains unclear. In mid-February, the association wants to take stock – and make a decision. All of this is happening with a view to the 2027 World Cup, which will again take place in Germany.

There is much to suggest that Gislason will receive a new contract. The coach wants to continue, the relationship with the team is considered intact, and reaching the European Championship semi-finals is a respectable success. After all, the German handball players haven't done so well since winning the European Championship in 2016 and winning the Olympic bronze medal in the same year. On the other hand: Gislason has not yet won a medal during his term in office. With the club coaches Florian Kehrmann (coach at TBV Lemgo) and Maik Machulla (most recently SG Flensburg-Handewitt), two younger candidates are also available.

Nevertheless: The German Handball Association would be somewhat crazy if it got involved in a coaching discussion after fourth place at the European Championships and the furious performances of the German team, which were watched by between five and eight million people on television. Anything other than a contract extension with Gislason would be a huge surprise.

Sources: DPA, “Sportbuzzer”, “Sportschau”

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