In the hammer group, things are now getting serious for Germany's basketball players. The severely weakened team led by new captain Dennis Schröder has to face France, who came second at the Olympics, European champions Slovenia with Luka Doncic and co-favorite Lithuania within seven days. Nevertheless, there is confidence in the German camp shortly before the EM kick-off.
"France and Slovenia also have to think about Germany," said Schröder before the start on Thursday evening (8.30 p.m. / Magentasport) against France. The home crowd should be a plus: first the 18,000 fans in the preliminary round in Cologne, then the final round, which will take place exclusively in Berlin from September 10th.
Wagner: "It's a great honor to be there"
In order to be there, the national team has to finish in the top four in the tricky group of six. National coach Gordon Herbert therefore did not lose much time after arriving in Cologne and deepened his preparation for France on his laptop in the hotel lobby. "The team looks good and is looking forward to Thursday. We have to get even better," demanded Herbert, for whom the European Championship will be his first major tournament. The 90:71 over Slovenia and Doncic on Sunday in Munich was an encouragement. After the colossal failure of the 2019 World Cup with the preliminary round, there is still a lot more to make up for.
In the tournament, which is characterized by NBA superstars such as Nikola Jokic (Serbia), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece) and Doncic, Germany's hopes rest on Schröder and young NBA star Franz Wagner. "Such a home EM doesn't happen that often. It's something special for the sport itself. It's a great honor to be there," said the 21-year-old Wagner. Posters were put up at the arena in Cologne, technology was installed and work was done to ensure that everything is ready for the start of the seven-day spectacle.
But then the pathos should be over - and in the best case scenario, the first European Championship medal since the Nowitzki era in 2005 should be won. "We want to somehow manage to spark euphoria. It remains to be seen how that will work. Of course, that also depends on sporting success," said center Johannes Voigtmann, knowing that it would be a tough struggle for public perception. In contrast to the women's football championship and the European Championships in Munich, the public broadcasters do not broadcast live. Although Magentasport shows the German games for free, there is a risk of a tournament in the niche.
Schröder emphasizes the strengths of the team
Herbert, Voigtmann and Wagner once again demonstratively repeated the clearly formulated goal of a medal at the big opening press conference on Tuesday. It will be difficult despite the home advantage, because apart from Schröder and Wagner, almost all supporters with NBA experience have canceled. Scenarios according to which more than half of the twelve-man squad could come from the USA were quickly shattered.
"We have to work with what's here. We still have a way to go, but we're slowly finding each other," Voigtmann described the squad that was without Maximilian Kleber (Dallas Mavericks), Moritz Wagner (Orlando Magic) and Tibor Pleiss (Efes Istanbul) should have problems, especially in the big positions. The Supercup in Hamburg was symbolic of this, when it suffered a hearty defeat against top favorite Serbia around NBA star Jokic.
Captain Schröder does not want to go into too much detail about the missing players, instead emphasizing the strengths of his team. "Our team chemistry sets us apart. We have a lot of quality and talent in the team. In the end, we just have to approach it with confidence," said the 28-year-old, who is currently without a club in the NBA. At the home European Championships in 2015 and the 2019 World Cup, Schröder already felt how much he would get if he failed. In the new role as a leader, the pressure will certainly not decrease.