Still disappointed about the end of the medal dream and annoyed by the stress of traveling, the German handball players reached the final destination of their World Cup trip.
Instead of precious metal, the DHB selection in the placement round in Stockholm is only about a reasonable conclusion to the tournament, in which the young and inexperienced team of national coach Alfred Gislason at the latest with the clear 28:35 defeat in the quarterfinals against Olympic champions and record World champion France has been shown its limits.
"The disappointment is definitely there, because we were looking at the semi-finals," admitted DHB sports director Axel Kromer before the game against Egypt this Friday (3:30 p.m. / ARD). "Something broke with the boys."
Aim for fifth place
Captain Johannes Golla admitted before the duel with the African champions: "The legs are heavy, the heads are down." Nevertheless, the 25-year-old demanded from SG Flensburg-Handewitt: "We have to show that we can also be enthusiastic about fifth place at a world championship. Fifth sounds better than sixth, seventh or eighth. We want to get out of it sensibly tournament farewell."
Goalkeeper veteran Andreas Wolff made a similar appeal to his teammates. "Now it's about getting back up and showing that we don't give up after setbacks," said the 31-year-old. In the bankruptcy against France, the team "gave up a bit" in the final phase. This impression should be corrected at all costs.
Especially since the German team still wants to settle a bill. "We still have a bone to pick with the Egyptians because they kicked us out of the quarter-finals at the Olympics. We want to take revenge for that," said Wolff.
In order to reach the game for fifth place on Sunday, the last forces have to be mobilized again. Gislason stated that "the batteries ran out" in the final phase of the France game, especially among the frequent players in the team.
The national coach also blamed the format of the finals in Poland and Sweden. "What annoys me a bit is the schedule. There's a difference between having two days off before a game like this or just one like us. That was a big factor," said the 63-year-old Icelander.
While the French were able to play their last main round game last Sunday, the DHB selection had to play against Norway on Monday evening and fly from Katowice to Gdansk on Tuesday when there was no play. "It was a real strain. We couldn't really prepare for the game," complained Gislason.
Little time to rest
The situation against Egypt is similar. The rivals were already in Stockholm for the quarter-finals against co-hosts Sweden, Gislason and his charges had to fly there after a short night on Thursday. To make matters worse, they also waited an hour for their luggage after landing.
There wasn't much time to charge the batteries. Nevertheless, Gislason promised: "We will do everything we can to win the game and get the best possible result from this tournament." That's what his protégés want, too, who acted at eye level against France for 40 minutes, but then collapsed. "You saw that it wasn't enough against a really big opponent. We have to be smarter and more ripped off," demanded Wolff.
Nevertheless, Gislason attested the team a good World Cup: "I think the boys learned a lot at this tournament. We've come a long way." By the time of the European Championships at home next year, they want to get even closer to the absolute top of the world. "The teams that are in the semifinals are a step ahead of us," said Golla. "But we're on the right track."
Hendrik Pekeler could soon join him again. The world-class circle runner from the German record champion THW Kiel, who took a break from the DHB selection after the Olympic Games in Tokyo, has promised his comeback. "At Christmas there was a small vote within the family as to whether I should play the national team again. The result was 10-0 that I should play again," reported the 31-year-old on the Rhein-Neckar Löwen podcast.
Gislason would very much welcome that. "He's one of the world's best in attack and defense because he's good at both," said the national coach about Pekeler. He must now decide "whether he dares to do it". Gislason had already announced before the World Cup that he wanted to contact the veteran after the finals. "If I notice that I have a good feeling and no problems, then we will sit down and find a solution," said Pekeler.