It took 80 dramatic minutes of play — and two periods of extended time! — but the team under coaches Jochen Beppler, Andre Haber and Klaus Langhoff claimed a hard-fought 32-31 victory at the U18 European Championship in Slovenia. The bronze came against the host nation, and despite the German team being significantly behind entering the last few minutes of regulation time. Eleven goals from Gregor Remke and two outstanding goalkeepers were needed to earn the fourth German medal in this age category, joining gold (2008, 2012) and silver (2003) in the trophy case. MT youngster Dimitri Ignatow contributed three scores to the German success story.
The DHB team was the better side in the early going, thanks not least to the attack on the right wing featuring Dimitri Ignatow and Gregor Remke. The strong starts by both keepers — Till Klimpke and Gasper Dobaj — kept the goal totals under check, however. Until Remke scored his third goal to make it 5-4, the DHB squad had the upper hand; at that point the aggressive Slovenian defence began to have an effect. Sebastian Heymann in particular was subject to some very physical play. The runners-up from the 2015 EYOF went on to five straight goals, forcing DHB coach Beppler to take his first time-out on 18 minutes.
The breather helped. Driven on by Klimpke and Remke, the Germans staged a comeback. By the time they scored for 9-11 their problems on offence were finished and the Slovenians, loud as their crowds cheered, could only move the scoreboard per seven metre throw. Despite their improved form and Remke's five goals, the German's couldn't even out the score before the half and headed to the dressing room at 12-9 for Slovenia.
The dogfight continued after the break, with both teams playing punishing defence — no easy feat, given that every player already contested six matches in nine days. The attackers on both sides crashed up against the defensive walls and stout keepers, and after 40 minutes there were just 27 total goals (12-15 for the Slovenians).
This phase saw the DHB troupe fail to convert several good chances against Mark Ferjan. The lead for Slovenia hovered at around three to four goals. Beppler called for his next time-out on 46 minutes with the score 13-17 and replaced Klimpke with Tim Hottgenroth. The next two goals (following two saves by Ferjan) went to Slovenia, and at 13-19 the match appeared to be slipping out of reach for Germany.
The memo failed to reach the young Germans, however. Heymann first converted an opportunity and then Matthes and Morante Maldonado combined for a brace of goals, forcing the Balkan team to call time at 18-22. With seven minutes left on the clock, Germany still had the chance to turn things around — but they would have to do it without Marcel Timm, who received a red card on 49 minutes for three two-minute suspensions.
Even so: the scoreboard moved to 20-22 with three minutes left... and then 21-22 off a Heymann strike... and the arena truly began to shake. Two minutes to go, Hottgenroth with the save, DHB boys in possession and a man up. The Slovenians were on the ropes – and Eloy Morante Maldonado slotted home his third goal for 22-22. Time-out Slovenia, with 56 seconds to go. Hottgenroth saved again, one last attack for Germany. Time-out Beppler – just twelve ticks left on the clock. It wasn't to be. The DHB turned over the ball, the Slovenians couldn't do anything productive with it, and there's the whistle. 22-22 after regulation, on to extended time, just like on Friday against France.
Things were still knotted up halfway through the extra period at 24-24, with Remke pulling Germany back from a two-goal abyss. Almost immediately after play resumed Ferris Klotz was whistled for his third suspension of the match — immediate red card and a visit to the stands. Slovenia pounced, but Remke (up to his eight goal) equalised — and then Hottegenroth managed a save. One minute left: Once again Slovenia took the lead, even had the chance to go up 27-25... save by Hottgenroth. Just three seconds remaining... Remke summoned his courage – and slammed the ball into the back of the net to make it 26-26. Five more minutes of extended time!
This time it was the DHB squad that raced to a quick lead. Remke twice, Heymann once... and after 75 minutes the Germans were proud recipients of the bronze medal thanks to a 31-29 conquest. All that remained was the celebration. (Report: BP, dhb.de / Archive photo: H. Hartung)
Germany – Slovenia in Koprivnica 32-31 (26-26, 22-22, 9-12) after 2 extended periods
Germany: Till Klimpke (HSG Dutenhofen), Tim Hottgenroth (TSV Bayer Dormagen); Tim Matthes (Füchse Berlin/), Robin Breitenfeldt (SG Flensburg-Handewitt), Sebastian Heymann (TSB Heilbronn-Horkheim/8), Niklas Diebel (TSV Hannover-Burgdorf), Lukas Stutzke (TSV Bayer Dormagen/2), Eloy Morante Maldonado (TSV Bayer Dormagen/4), Luis Villgrattner (HBW Balingen-Weilstetten), Lukas Kister (TSV GWD Minden/), Gregor Remke (EHV Aue/11), Dimitri Ignatow (MT Melsungen/3), Jakob Knauer (Füchse Berlin/1), Ferris Klotz (THW Kiel/1), Marcel Timm (VfL Gummersbach/1), Moritz Strosack (SG Ottenheim/Altenheim)
Germany's Euros results from Koprivnica:
Preliminary round: Germany - Portugal 34-19 (19-7), Germany - Poland 34-22 (15-14), Germany - Serbia 25-18 (13-7)
Main round: Germany - Croatia 21-32 (8-17), Germany – Iceland 35-20 (15-9)
Semi-finals: Germany – France 38-39 (32-32, 18-13) a.e.t