Tournament in Denmark: Belgian roots, German handball: Smits' World Cup mix

Handball player Xenia Smits approached the morning after her acclaimed buzzer beater in a very contemplative manner.

Tournament in Denmark: Belgian roots, German handball: Smits' World Cup mix

Handball player Xenia Smits approached the morning after her acclaimed buzzer beater in a very contemplative manner. Together with roommate Johanna Stockschläder, the backcourt player decorated the German Handball Association's World Cup quarters for Christmas and stuck reindeer faces on the windows.

"We don't have a Christmas tree, but with fairy lights we try to have the feeling of being at home and finding peace," reported Smits a few hours after the World Cup opening victory. With the final whistle, Smits scored against Japan to make it 31:30 and sent the German bench into ecstasy. With a win against handball dwarf Iran, the DHB team can complete their early entry into the main round on Saturday (6 p.m.). Poland is waiting for the final round of the preliminary round on Monday.

Smits dreams of being bilingual

It was not always clear that Smits would even play for the German national team. Because the Bundesliga player from champions Bietigheim is actually Belgian. Born in Antwerp, the backfield player left her homeland at the age of 14 and went to a German handball boarding school - she first had to learn the language. Six years later, Smits received his German passport and started an impressive career in the DHB team.

Over 100 international matches. One of the world's best defenders and feared for her powerful throws from the backcourt. With the mix of robust defensive work and enormous offensive power, Smits also wants to cause a sensation at the World Cup. “My blood is Belgian, but as a handball player I feel German,” said Smits, who even dreams of being bilingual.

The dream of the Olympics

One dream has so far remained unfulfilled: taking part in the Olympic Games. The German women have not been at the Rings Festival since 2008, but that is set to change in Paris in 2024. In order to secure a ticket for one of the qualifying tournaments, the DHB team must make it to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

Not an easy task, but a very realistic one. A place in the main round is considered certain. Title candidate Denmark would be the only team that can clearly be ranked higher than the German team. The two best teams from each group of six then qualify for the quarter-finals.

"Zack in the Shop"

And if playmaker Smits continues to perform well, a lot is possible anyway. For the tall defensive player, the last second goal against Japan was “somewhat unexpected”, for national coach Markus Gaugisch it was a textbook attack. Or as the 49-year-old himself put it: "Good rotation in the body. Arm was nice and high. Zack into the angle - perfect thing."

Gaugisch should be spared a shaky game like against Japan on Saturday. Rather, Iran should be a welcome opponent against whom processes can be further rehearsed and internalized. The German defense must become more stable if top-class players like Denmark and France are to be defeated as the tournament progresses.

Where is the consistency?

Against Japan, the defensive coordination was not right at all at times. The nimble Asians danced their way skillfully through the gaps in the German back row. And the DHB offensive also wobbled at times. “A game with ups and downs,” said Smits, summing up the fluctuations.

A lack of consistency has been the weak point in the German squad at previous major tournaments. We couldn't do better than seventh place. In Scandinavia's handball strongholds, the advance to the top of the world should now be successful. “Our team is stronger than ever,” announced left winger Antje Döll optimistically. Also thanks to players like Xenia Smits.

NEXT NEWS