Kolding (dpa) – Despite all the disappointment, the German handball players looked fast ahead. Due to the 27:28 (15:14) defeat in the second main round match of the European Championship against the Netherlands, the DHB selection lost the best possible starting position.
Nevertheless, the team of national coach Henk Groener still has the participation in the semi-finals in the group final against Croatia in its own hands on Tuesday (6.15 pm). “It was clear anyway that we would have to beat Croatia if we want to continue,” said the 60-year-old. “It will stay that way. We will do everything for that.”
In the duel with the Croats in Kolding, Denmark, the DHB squad needs a win with at least two goals difference to keep the semi-final ticket. If the Orange unexpectedly loses to Romania in advance, a victory with one goal would be enough for the German team. “It’s still there. Now is the time to put your head up and prepare for Croatia,” said Dinah Eckerle.
Led by the excellent goalkeeper, the German team had put in a strong performance against the Dutch world champions for a long time. Julia Behnke and Kim Naidzinavicius were the best pitchers in the DHB roster, each with four goals, missing some top opportunities in the closing stages and therefore missing at least one tie. The best two teams in the main round group reach the semi-finals, the unbeaten record of European champions Norway has already qualified.
Compared to the disappointing preliminary round of the European Championship, the German team again presented itself strongly against the world champions. As with the 32:25 success at the start of the main round against Hungary, the DHB squad was wide awake and highly focused from the start. And she could always rely on the strong Eckerle. With some excellent saves, the 25-year-old gradually brought the Dutch women to the brink of despair in the first round.
Still, it remained tight. Groener repeatedly called for faster withdrawal behavior during the timeouts. But the DHB squad found it difficult to control the opponent’s pace. But because the German attack was much more accurate than in the preliminary round, at least in the first round, it went back and forth. Still, Groener’s team missed an early start. And in the closing stages, his team missed some of the best opportunities against troubled Dutch women.
“We are clearly disappointed that we could not win the game,” said Naidzinavicius. “We had a chance to win the game or get at least one point.” Still, the dream of the semi-final lives on.