After the huge basketball party at the start of the EM, Dennis Schröder and Co. feel ready for great deeds. "It was a perfect evening," said the German captain after the previously unimaginable 76:63 against Olympic silver medalist France in front of 18,000 completely euphoric spectators in Cologne's Lanxess Arena.
For the German team, which had been shaken by numerous personnel setbacks in the run-up, it was the ideal start on the way to the longed-for first medal in 17 years - and to the goal of making German basketball socially acceptable again internationally. "We have the chance to put Germany on the map," said national coach Gordon Herbert, who, despite the impressive performance, is usually calm and analytical.
By beating fellow favorites France, the German team took the first step, nothing more. "Of course that gives us a boost, but it was just a win," said the strong Daniel Theis, who, despite his injury break in the days before the tournament started, became the long-awaited anchor of an amazingly strong and intensive defense overall. "The way we defended was the key," said Niels Giffey, who had previously disappeared and is now trumping. "If we continue to defend like this, then we'll play a good tournament," said the native of Berlin.
With this feeling of lightness, the second win against the team from Bosnia-Herzegovina, who were also victorious at the start, should come this Saturday (2.30 p.m. / Magentasport). Because despite the first exclamation mark on the European competition, the group with heavyweights like Slovenia and Lithuania remains complicated. In 2013, Germany started a European Championship by beating France - and after embarrassing defeats against basketball midgets like Great Britain and Belgium, they were eliminated without a word.
The danger of a repetition seems rather small this time. The German selection is too consolidated and closed these days. "I think the best team wins here and not the team with the best individual players," said NBA professional Wagner after his European Championship debut. "The team chemistry is good, so it's extremely fun."
Basketball legend Dirk Nowitzki also had it in the stands. The emotional jersey ceremony for the exceptional athlete in the presence of Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier before the game gave his successors in the Germany jersey even more energy. "We all love him," Giffey said.