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EM | “There’s something special in the air”: DHB team starts adventure

The preliminary skirmish is over: Germany’s handball players will start the European Championship on Friday – without any association guidelines, but with a lot of enthusiasm and carefreeness.

Alfred Gislason didn’t change a face, the national coach followed the final training session with folded arms. His target for the start of the tournament? “Win,” said the Icelander with enormous focus and zest for action. Before the start of the European Championship against Belarus on Friday (6:00 p.m. / ARD), the German handball players scratch their hooves, the DHB team is determined.

“It feels a bit different than in previous years,” said backcourt player Julius Kühn, one of four remaining EM heroes from 2016, on Thursday in the icy cold Bratislava: “There’s something special in the air here.” And even the battle-tested Gislason said: “For me, too, it’s exciting what’s to come. Now it’s reality, now we can start.”

In fact, after the intensive preparation, no one really knows where the German team stands. Playmaker Philipp Weber even called the DHB selection a “lucky bag” in view of the successful dress rehearsal against Olympic champion France.

Corona situation causes concern

And so Gislason spoke before the start against what is probably the strongest German opponent in the preliminary round of a “pioneering” game and put the chances at “50:50”. It is “not a final, but coming into the tournament with a positive experience would be extremely important for the further course”. Other German preliminary round opponents are Austria on Sunday (6:00 p.m. / ARD) and Poland on Tuesday (6:00 p.m. / ZDF).

After years of sadness with lots of tournament disappointments since winning the title in 2016, the completely renewed team around captain Johannes Golla wants to spark a new handball euphoria in Germany. There is no association requirement this time, the carelessness of the internationally inexperienced team should become the big trump card. Eight players will be making their tournament debut in Slovakia. “The tension is not too great because I have a good feeling,” said the new leader Golla, who took over the captaincy from the retired Uwe Gensheimer.

The German delegation is only concerned about the precarious corona situation. On Thursday, the Poles, who are staying in the same hotel as the German team who have been spared so far, reported five new cases. “We just have to stay healthy, then we’ll get relatively far,” said Kühn with a wink – knowing full well that the impacts are getting closer and closer.

Gislason can probably draw on the full

In terms of personnel, Gislason can probably draw on plenty on Friday. Weber’s bruised shoulder still pinched, but Gislason “assumes that he will be ready for the game – just like everyone else”. For Weber, who trained with the team in Bratislava on Thursday afternoon, it is “extremely important that he is in full health”.

Gislason’s team can play freely. The failures in recent years, with the negative climax of the worst World Cup placement in history in Egypt a year ago, have left their mark not only on the top of the association. At home, too, expectations are manageable.

“Alfred has initiated a change and has a lot of young people with him,” said long-time national player Pascal Hens. That’s why the “disappointment isn’t that big” if it doesn’t work that way. However, the German team would also have “the opportunity to surprise positively”.

Former master trainer Martin Schwalb put it even more boldly. “If the team gets into a flow, with the right amount of luck, even the semi-finals are possible,” he told the Hamburger Morgenpost.

Well then.

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