Johannes Golla (18) and his teammates in the German Junior National Team earned silver at the U20 European Championship. In a thrilling Sunday final, the German time came up just short against Spain (29-30) after extended time. The hopes of the German side crashed to the rocks after several "easy counterstrikes" during extended time where Spain needed "only" toss the ball into the empty cage. The MT pivot player saw significant playing time in the final, both on defence and offence. He scored three goals.
After the incredible semi-final win over France on Friday, with Germany winning 35-33 after extended time, the German U20 Junior National team faced off on Sunday afternoon in the Euros final against Spain. It was a tricky affair, with Spain cleverly slowing the tempo whenever possible to thwart Germany from getting into the rhythm. After fighting back from three goals down in the 51st minute, the team under Markus Baur and Erik Wudtke showed grit and discipline to force extended time. While the German squad initially took the lead, it ultimately came up just short on the final scoreboard 29-30 (27-27, 25-25, 9-12). The win earned Spain the title of European Champion and deposed Germany as defending champions. By qualifying for the finals, both teams earned themselves spot for the U21 World Championship to be held next year, likely in Algeria.
Throughout the match, the team managed by Markus Baur and Erik Wudtke enjoyed loud support from the German fan block, starting just a few seconds into play when Lukas Mertens scored on a counter-attack to make it 1-0. Both defences proved stout in the early going and the attackers failed to gain much traction. Patrick Gempp nevertheless seized his chance five minutes in from the circle and scored for a 3-2 lead. Just a few seconds later the man from Großwallstadt was hit with a suspension, and the awarded seven metre penalty was converted by Daniel Dujshebaev to knot things at 3-3. It was the Spaniard's second strike from the line.
The FC Barcelona talent — and son of Talant Dujshebaev — tied the score again in the 10th minute with an impressive underhand throw, although Franz Semper from SC DHfK Leipzig restored the German team's lead but moments later. On defence, Berlin's Kevin Struck played aggressively far forward, disrupting the pivot play of the Spaniards, but even he could not prevent the first Spain lead at 5-6 at already 12 minutes in.
The German team suffered a turnover with seven court players out, and Spain threw into the empty goal on 14 minutes — making it 6-8. A foul on pivot Patrick Gempp gave the German team the chance shortly thereafter to close the gap, but the otherwise so reliable Björn Zintel was blocked. On the other side, Minden's Joel Birlehm prevented the deficit from growing to three goals, and when another foul was whistled on a Spanish player, Björn Zintel once again strode to the line with the chance to make good. And the player from ASV Hamm did, sending the scoreboard to 7-8.
The Spanish side was a bit too vigorous in their defence and suffered several suspensions. Minden's Marian Michalczik took advantage effectively on 21 minutes, breaking through a gap in the defence to close the score to 8-9. The German goal was now manned by Potsdam's Paul Twarz, who quickly parried a backcourt missile from Juan Munoz but was left helpless on the follow-up throw by Ruben Iglesias... two goal lead for Spain.
The German bench called for a time-out roughly seven minutes before the half, but it didn't change the dynamic. To the contrary, Spain began expanding its lead. The aggressive Spanish defence appeared to have the German players on their heels.
Another block by Paul Twarz gave Baur's team the chance to reduce the deficit shortly before the break, but Lukas Merten's shot from the left wing was stopped by the Spanish goaltender. Daniel Dujshebaev instead extended his team's lead with a seven metre penalty before Moritz Schade was able to break through energetically at the circle for the 9-12 score. Right at the whistle for half Paul Twarz blocked a shot from the circle, holding the deficit to no more than three goals.
The German team had possession to start the second half, and Björn Zintel scored to make it 10-12, although Spain's most notable performer, Daniel Dujshebaev, quickly returned the favour. An artistic goal by Lukas Mertens from a very sharp angle had the German fans celebrating on 34 minutes. The player for Wilhelmshavener HV cut the deficit to 11-14. A goal by Johannes Golla and another save by Paul Twarz had the German team sensing a breakthrough, but Spain managed to put together a fast break that ended with 12-16 by Asier Nieto.
Taking a terrific assist from Jerome Müller, Johannes Golla once again made things closer, but Spain was awarded a controversial seven metre penalty that restored the four goal lead. Having played a draining match on Friday against France, the players under Markus Baur and Erik Wudtke seemed a bit tired and a step slow on defence. Even so, the team's fighting spirit was outstanding. Lukas Mertens successfully placed a shot, and a long throw by Spain landed near the German goal.
The comeback was on. Johannes Golla notched his third goal, bringing Germany back to 17-19 and soon had the chance to make it a brace, but was unable to convert. It was Spanish keeper Xoan Ledo who instead threw into the empty German net on 45 minutes, restoring the three goal lead. The German team refused to cede ground, and at 49 minutes had clawed back to 20-22, well within striking distance. Franz Semper, who had played a fine match to that point, hit for his fifth goal (21-23), with nine minutes remaining to turn the match around.
A Spanish suspension once again left them a man down, and Tim Suton seized the moment for an unstoppable shot to make it 22-23 — "Let's go, boys!" rang down from the stands. The captain, who had returned to the team after being banned for a red card, took few throws, but directed his players effectively throughout. Spain managed to score again, leaving five minutes in the match and a score of 25-23.
Marian Michalczik had stepped up again and again in the semi-final, but this time it was Leipzig's Franz Semper who overpowered the Spanish keeper again and again. First on 57 minutes from around nine meters (24-25), then two minutes later for 25-25. A block by Joel Birlehm gave the German team possession with a minute left in the match — and the chance to claim victory — but Franz Semper couldn't slot it home with just ten seconds on the clock. Spain was equally unable to score in the scant seconds remaining, and so — as in the semi-finals — on to extended time!
Just like in the semi-final, Joel Birlehm barred all entry to his goal, allowing his front line attackers the chance to take the first lead since the 11th minute. Lukas Mertens took advantage and scored for 26-25. Spain knotted things back up with a fine lob shot off an airborne pass, just clearing the keeper's fingertips, but the German team had smelled blood in the water. Marian Michalczik scored to regain the lead. Markus Baur continued sending in a seventh court player, but Daniel Dujshebaev took advantage with an empty net goal (27-27). That's how things remained at the intermission.
The first two goals after the extended time half-time went to Spain — two empty net goals, as the German coaches stuck to their seventh-court-player strategy but twice lost possession. On 67 minutes Marian Michalczik cut the deficit to 28-29, but an underhand throw from Daniel Dujshebaev, his tenth strike of the night, left things at 28-30 with just two minutes to go. While Tim Suton halved the gap one last time, Spain successfully wound down the clock on its next possession, and celebrated a European Championship title after the final whistle by the Danish referee.
(Text: handball-world.com / Photos: Hubert Kemper, DHB)