Successful start to the Olympics for German handball! In an intense match, the team under German national trainer Dagur Sigurdsson beat Sweden, silver medallists from the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The 32-29 (18-15) score earned them the first two points of the tournament. Top scorer for the German side was Julius Kühn with eight goals; Jerry Tollbring achieved the same feat for the Scandinavians. The second match of the preliminary round is slated for Tuesday. The opponent will be Poland (live at 4:30 pm on ZDF).
The European Champions started nervously into the match, and had to cope with the first suspension, against Julius Kühn. Sweden initially seized control of the match against the German team, which was lacking in rhythm on both defence and offence. Not surprisingly, seven minutes into the match the northern Europeans enjoyed a 4-1 lead at Future Arena. The spectators were given a shock just a few minutes later: during a defensive situation Sweden's Lukas Nilsson was knocked to the ground and had to be helped from the court — our best wishes for a quick recovery go out to Nilsson.
As the match progressed, the team under Sigurdsson, frequently working with seven court players, gained the upper hand. Kühn in particular became a key option in the attack, and hit from the left backcourt whenever he wanted. It was Captain Uwe Gensheimer who ultimately brought the DHB crew back into the lead (6-5, 11th minute).
An intense match then followed, with highlight-quality play by the German handball players both on defence and when attacking. Fabian Wiede in particular guided the match masterfully, serving as the hub for many successful strikes. The Swedes also used a seventh court player, leading to a keeper goal by Andreas Wolff (13-11, 23rd minute).
But that wasn't the only highlight from #1 national keeper Wolff, who thwarted numerous strong opportunities by the Scandinavians. The German side headed into the intermission of this intense match with an 18-15 lead. Each of the teams had been called for 5 suspensions by Danish referees Martin Gjeding and Mads Hansen. When the Germans had the ball, playmaker Wiede and Kühn with his 100% conversion rate were the stars. The German team also proved effective at slowing down Sweden's dangerous fast breaks.
After switching sides of the court, the defences and keepers (Wolff and Mikael Appelgren) dominated the match, with few goals scored. The first German goal of the second half came from Gensheimer, with a successful seven-metre throw at 19-16 (37th minute). The Swedes managed to stay within striking distance, repeatedly seeking out Johan Jakobsson on offense, who converted dutifully.
Sweden suffered a bitter blow in the 40th minute however when Captain Tobias Karlsson was whistled for his third 2-minute-suspension, which meant an ejection. The German handballers took advantage of this immediately, extending their lead to four thanks to Hendrik Pekeler and Wiede (23-19, 43rd minute).
Yet Sweden would not go down without a fight. Germany grew somewhat lethargic during this phase, with several suspensions in just a few minutes. As befits a nation with more European Championships than any other, Sweden pounced. Four goals in a row with a man advantage, especially with 20-year-old Jerry Tollbring striking from the seven metre spot. And just like that the match was tied. Sigurdsson called for a time out.
The German side returned to the court with greater intensity, defending better and using the turnovers to score simple goals. Right wing Tobias Reichmann in particular showed strong nerves in several one-on-one situations against Appelgren (28-26, 55th minute). During the closing phase, the DHB selection kept their cool under intense conditions, ultimately claiming the first two well-earned points. The exclamation point came at the very end, with Reichmann throwing an ice-cold strike moments before the final whistle to make it 32-29.
Statistics: Sweden - Germany in Future Arena in Rio 29-32 (15-18)
Sweden: M. Andersson, Appelgren; Gottfridsson (1), K. Andersson, Tollbring (8/8), L. Nilsson, Steinbacken, Karlsson, Jakobsson (5), Petersen (3), Stenmalm (4), Zachrisson (3), A. Nilsson (3), Nielsen (2).
Germany: Heinevetter, Wolff (2); Gensheimer (5/2), Lemke (1), Wiencek (2), Reichmann (6), Wiede (4), Pekeler (2), Strobel, Groetzki, Häfner, Kühn (7), Dissinger, Drux (3)
Referees: Gjeding/Hansen (DEN); Suspensions: Sweden 18 minutes Germany 18 minutes; Seven metre throws: 7/7:2/2; Key moments: 4-1 (6th), 5-6 (11th), 7-9 (16th), 12-15 (25th), 15-18 (halftime), 17-20 (37th), 21-23 (43rd), 25-25 (52nd), 27-30 (57th), 29-32 (final)
(dhb.de, Photo: TV screenshot)