Germany's handball players completed a successful dress rehearsal and won the last test match before the home European Championships.
The DHB selection beat outsiders Portugal 35:31 (20:15) in the Kiel Handball Arena and gained self-confidence for the European Championship opener on Wednesday against Switzerland. In front of 9,113 spectators, Juri Knorr was the best German thrower with six goals. National coach Alfred Gislason's team had already won the first duel with the southern Europeans on Thursday.
"In the end, everyone performed well. But we still made a lot of technical mistakes, especially in the second half from the 45th minute onwards, and gave the Portuguese a hard time," said Gislason on ARD. The convincing goalkeeper Andi Wolff wasn't completely satisfied either: "We didn't solve a few things the way we actually wanted to solve them."
The DHB entourage is now moving on to North Rhine-Westphalia, where it will open its medal mission on Wednesday in the Düsseldorf football arena in front of 53,000 fans. Other opponents in the preliminary round are North Macedonia and France. Germany is not one of the favorites for the winter climax in their own country, but is dreaming of the semi-finals.
Groetzki was substituted injured
National coach Alfred Gislason shuffled his starting lineup compared to the first duel with the Portuguese. Patrick Groetzki, at 34 the oldest in the German European Championship squad, started on the right wing, with U21 world champion Renars Uscins playing behind him.
After around 23 minutes the game was over for Groetzki. The veteran injured his foot without any influence from an opponent and limped off the field. With a pained expression on his face, he iced his foot and buried his face in the towel.
More aggressive in defense
Both teams played on equal terms for the first few minutes. The German assets included left winger Lukas Mertens and backcourt player Julian Köster, both of whom posed a huge goal threat. However, the DHB team lacked intensity in defense and the outsiders took advantage of the gaps. After ten minutes, Portugal took the lead for the first time (7:6).
As a result, Gislason changed the inside block and brought young hopefuls Justus Fischer and Sebastian Heymann into the game. “Very good in attack and we are now more aggressive in defense,” praised Gislason during the first timeout. Portugal now scored significantly less often and Andi Wolff underlined his world class with his first saves. The German seven didn't let Groetzki's injury unsettle them and pulled ahead to 20:15.
Lichtlein gets playing minutes
After the break, Gislason brought new strength and the U21 world champions Nils Lichtlein and David Späth in goal as well as veteran Kai Häfner gained match practice. From a German perspective, the changes did not harm the course of the game and the DHB team extended its lead to seven goals (27:21).
Germany was now playing itself into a frenzy. The Kiel fans rose from their seats and celebrated the appearance of their European Championship hopefuls, the La Ola splashed through the arena for the first time.
Technical errors creep in
When everything looked like a confident victory, Germany's handball players suffered a little slack. In attack, Timo Kastening and Co. made too many technical errors and the lead shrank from seven to three goals. Gislason took a time out and sent leading figure and playmaker Knorr back onto the field. Germany continued to struggle, but deserved to win in the end.