At the first casting of the German handball players for the home European Championship, national coach Alfred Gislason only looks ahead.
Not even six weeks after the remarkable fifth place at the World Cup, the DHB selection begins with the double endurance test against world champion Denmark, the preparation for the highlight event in January 2024. "The players know everything about the last tournament. Now we don't have anymore the time to look back together," said Gislason before the international matches on Thursday (8.45 p.m. / live stream zdf.de) in Aalborg and Sunday (2.15 p.m. / ZDF) in Hamburg.
In the training course that started on Monday in the Baltic Sea resort of Damp and in the two duels with the three-time champion, Gislason wants to focus on defensive work. "We have some catching up to do, especially in defence. I hope that over time we can add more alternatives," said the 63-year-old coach.
No big change in squad
With the exception of Marian Michalczik, who was nominated to replace the injured Luca Witzke, Gislason relies exclusively on World Championship drivers. "We want to get used to it, so there aren't any major changes in the squad," said the national coach. A return of defense specialist Hendrik Pekeler is therefore "not an issue" at the moment. Especially since the 31-year-old circular runner, who announced a break from the national team after the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, had to "find his rhythm again at THW Kiel" after his serious and lengthy injury last year, explained Gislason.
DHB sports director Axel Kromer supports the philosophy of the national coach to rely on a tight corset. "Some nations are using the spring to change some staff. But we're happy that we can count on consistency," said Kromer. "With a view to the EURO, which begins in ten months, we are building a continuously growing foundation and can give our national team further impetus in its development."
Köster is out for the first game
However, the DHB team has to do without Julian Köster in the first duel. The 22-year-old backcourt player from Bundesliga promoted VfL Gummersbach is out due to a bad cold. "But he doesn't have a fever, so I have hope that he'll be in the second game," said Gislason.
Against the Danes, who won World Cup gold for the third time in a row at the end of January, the DHB selection wants to build on the strong World Cup finish at 28:24 against Norway and finally celebrate a sense of achievement against a really big one. That was not the case in the quarter-finals of the World Cup against eventual runner-up France (28:35), nor in the previous games in the Euro Cup against European champions Sweden (33:37) and World Cup third-placed Spain (31:32 ).
However, Gislason does not feel any pressure to succeed. "Even if it's against the world champions - for the most part we only look at ourselves. The result is never unimportant and of course it will be difficult for us. But we don't worry too much because it's even more important to continue our development", emphasized the national coach and added: "We want to do some things better than at the World Cup."