The DHB Junior National Team, including MT pivot Johannes Golla, have fulfilled their dream of the Euros final: Even without Captain Tim Suton (banned for a red card), the team under coaching duo Markus Baur/Erik Wudtke successfully bested defending U19 World Champions France 35-33 (15-15, 30-30) after extended time in the Kolding, Denmark. Over the course of the well-played and dramatic 70 minute final, Marian Michalczyk and Björn Zintel (8 goals each) and Lukas Mertens (7) were the top scorers for Germany. The victory secured the DHB squad's fifth trip to the finals of a U20 European Championship. Germany claimed gold in 2004, 2006 and 2014, and silver in 2008.
The opponent for the defending Euros champions in Markus Baur's last match as DHB coach will be Spain, who won a one-sided semi-final against Croatia 31-21 (17-8). The 5pm match will be streamed live at livestream.com/m20euro. The stage has thus been set by the DHB Juniors for a repeat of the Men's European Championship final in January – which ended with a 24-17 win for Germany over Spain in Krakow.
Before the match, the Juniors received words of encouragement out of Rio from January's title-winning "Bad Boys": "We've all got our fingers crossed for you", was the message from the DHB men, who kick off the Olympic tournament on Sunday parallel to the U20 final. DHB Vice President Bob Hanning conveyed the well-wishes.
"I'd never won in extended time, let alone a semi-final", said Michaelczyk, who was once again voted Man of the Match. He continued: "The closeness of the team was once again the decisive factor. We initially had trouble with France's cannon arms, but our skill and emotion let us get back in it. Joel Birlehm was unbelievable in goal during the extended time, and the rest was just a dream".
Coach Baur was also "thrilled", because: "This was our best match at the Euros to date, and one where we mastered several critical situations. If we'd been evenly matched, we'd have closed it out earlier. But we were clearly the better side during extended time, and the better keeper won the day". Looking toward the final, Baur said: "Spain has marched through this tournament undefeated, first besting Spain and then easily topping Croatia in the semis. We'll need to come up with something".
The German semi-final against France was a thrilling match from the first minute to the 70th. After seizing a 7-6 lead, the DHB team frittered away the lead and by the 17th minute was already trailing 8-10; they then turned the match around again to make it 14-13 and went into the half knotted at 15-15. The DHB Juniors did an outstanding job of compensating for the loss of their captain Suton, who was banned for a red card in the final match of the main round against Norway. Björn Zintel ably assumed Suton's role as playmaker. Suton and Valentin Spohn, sick with flu, cheered on the team from the stands behind the team.
The lead changed hands repeatedly after half-time, with neither team able to convert on more than two goals in a row in what was becoming an absolutely top-notch match. The momentum initially flowed to the French (15-17), whose individual players were of indisputably world-class quality, but then the German team and its tight teamwork spun things around, pushing the score to 23-21. The roller-coaster ride would continue to the end. Six minutes before the end of regulation things stood at 26-28 after several strong attacks by the reigning U19 World Champions, but Baur's clever tactics — including the strong and consistent use of a seventh court player on offence — paid off: 28-28, 29-29 and ultimately 30-30 with 70 seconds left to the end. The goalkeeping efforts of Birlehm and Paul Twarz deserve special praise.
The German team thought it had reached the final when Marian Michalczyk slotted a strike home for 31-30 just seconds before the final whistle — but the referee had already whistled a foul. In a furious finale, 2.07 metre tall Stefan Salger took the court, but his free throw at the final whistle was blocked. On to extended time!
It started with a bang for the Baur team: First they successfully blocked a direct free throw by Melvyn Richardson (son of ex-handball star Jacksdon Richardson), they headed with a 33-31 lead into the second half-time. The German fans, clearly in the majority in Kolding, were rock solid behind their team.
When play resumed, another goal (34-31) pointed clearly toward victory. Birlehm stopped anything that could be stopped, while the DHB lads up front pushed to settle all doubt early. By the time Zintel converted for 35-32, the race was run – Germany had reached the final. The hefty celebrations began immediately after the final whistle.
All Euros matches are being streamed live on the internet at http://livestream.com/m20euro. For more information about the DHB Juniors, please visit www.dhb.de/junioren.
Stastics from Germany - France in Kolding 35-33 (30-30, 15-15) a.e.t.
Germany: Paul Twarz (VfL Potsdam), Joel Birlehm (GWD Minden); Lukas Mertens (Wilhelmshavener HV/7), Tim Nothdurft (HBW Balingen-Weilstetten/1), Marian Michalczik (GWD Minden/8), Kevin Struck (Füchse Berlin), Jerome Müller (HG Saarlouis/4), Björn Zintel (ASV Hamm-Westfalen/8), Franz Semper (SC DHfK Leipzig/3), Stefan Salger (SG Leutershausen), Lars Weissgerber (HG Saarlouis), Moritz Schade (Dessauer HV/1), Patrick Gempp (TV Großwallstadt/3), Johannes Golla (MT Melsungen), Robin Egelhoff (TV Hochdorf)
Top goalscorer for France: Richardson (7); Referee: Boricic/Markovic (Serbia); Suspensions: Germany 6 minutes, Frankreich 0 minutes; Seven metre throws: 6/6:3/2
(Text and photo: dhb.de / Björn Pazen)