German president frank-walter steinmeier consoled captain uwe gensheimer in the catacombs of the hamburg arena, while national coach christian prokop looked ahead again shortly after the end of the german handball team’s gold dream.
With the 25:31 (12:14) defeat in a long gripping semifinal against norway, the DHB selection missed the first entry into the world championship final since the triumph twelve years ago and will now play on sunday (14.30 hrs/ZDF) in herning, danish, against record world champion france for the bronze medal. "We did not play at the optimum today. At the moment, the exchange is rough," said prokop. "But we still have something to do and we will get up."
Steinmeier addressed words of encouragement to the team after the final whistle. "That was a great time. Too bad, today it was not enough. This team inspired. That was a real, real promotion for handball," said the president of the federal government. Together with his wife he comforted the players.
Still in the night, the team wanted to leave by bus to danmark, where the final between the host and norway will take place on sunday after the match for the third place. "We certainly didn’t put in our best performance today," analyzed prokop. "I lacked a little confidence from the ruck area."
Despite the vociferous support of the 12.500 spectators in the sold-out hamburger arena were the norwegians a number too coarse. In the extremely fast game, gensheimer was the best scorer of the german team with seven goals, which for the first time in the tournament revealed weaknesses in defense. Nevertheless, DHB vice-president bob hanning stated: "the boys played a great world cup and can be proud of themselves."The best scorer of the norwegians was magnus rod of the SG flensburg-handewitt, who scored seven goals.
"We are all very disappointed, we imagined it a bit different," said berlin backcourt player paul drux, "but if we all come down, we can be proud of ourselves."Defensive specialist finn lemke commented in a hushed voice: "no one on our team can blame themselves. We have given everything."
That it could come to a battle of nerves was already evident in the opening minutes of the game. The german team was leading at first, but then the norwegians turned up the heat. The german defense was consistently strong in the beginning, with national coach prokop again relying on patrick wiencek and hendrik pekeler in the inside block from the start. And what the defense could not block, partete in the first minutes torhuter andreas wolff. Nevertheless, the keeper had permanent problems with the scandinavians’ backcourt throws and was replaced by silvio heinevetter for the first time after about 19 minutes amid loud cursing.
Already in the semifinals of the european championship 2016, both teams had delivered a showdown to the very end. At that time, the DHB selection had only won by a hair’s breadth with a score of 34:33 – and since then, the norwegians have become even stronger. Spurred on by the vociferous fans, the german team tried again and again to prevent the fast counterattacks of the guests. An extremely fast-paced game quickly developed.
In his first time-out, prokop urged his charges not to play "too slowly" but "with pressure" when they are outnumbered. In fact, there was a lack of determination in the german offensive efforts. In addition, the czech referees awarded some questionable two-minute penalties against the german team. The norwegians took advantage of this in the 27. Minute to the first three-goal lead.
Team manager oliver roggisch was convinced at the break: "we can still do it."But the DHB- selection had more and more problems with the norwegian counter-attacks, which were successful in almost every attempt. "We don’t defend well and we’re not at the level," prokop said in his first timeout in the second period. "We have 20 minutes to make it better."But for the first time in this tournament, germany’s defense showed gaps in some phases. Also the goalkeepers were not as strong as usual.
Nevertheless, the DHB team never gave up – also because the audience never gave up. Even when defense chief pekeler received a red card after his third time penalty, the german team kept fighting – but norway remained better. The scandinavians scored goals mainly through their skaters and were jubilant at the end about the deserved victory.