Fighting ‘incredibly costly mistakes’

Juri Knorr is the most important outfield player in the German national handball team. The one who does not spare himself. Someone who likes to take responsibility and puts himself in the wind. At the World Cup, it’s up to him.

It was only at the very end of a long afternoon of handball that Juri Knorr still despaired: “It’s not possible”, exclaimed the playmaker of the German national handball team in Hanover. The 22-year-old had a pen in his hand, no ball and he was no longer up against the many-armed Iceland defense, but a much denser wall of weapons of fans fighting for Knorr’s autograph . And Knorr wrote and wrote and wrote. In the meantime, he confronted the journalists who wanted to interview probably the most important outfield player in Germany at the moment, and then he returned to the fan wall. And continued to write. Continue.

Before that, Juri Knorr, on whom rest the hopes of German handball at the World Cup which begins in a few days, stirred the Icelanders well. The director kicked 13 goals at 33:31 (19:14), continued to find his line runners and shortly before the end of the first half had a private feud with Iceland goalkeeper Björvin Pall Gustavsson. Under pressure, the German slammed the ball in the Icelandic’s face from close range as he went down, and Gustavsson had little chance afterwards. The Rhein-Neckar Löwen man didn’t let himself be thrown off balance, although the fierce Gustavsson first followed him to the halfway line and in the minutes that followed continued to watch and talk .

‘Incredibly costly mistakes’

Knorr remained stoic, flowed blow after blow – and then clarified the situation with great maturity. “He insulted me once or twice. That’s why I was angry at first, if you can put it that way,” Knorr explained. “We clarified that in a calm conversation at half-time and now everything is fine. In handball, that’s the way emotions boil sometimes and I’m there sometimes too. That’s part of it and that’s amusing.”

The crazy minutes in Hannover are also a symbol: Knorr is not discouraged when it gets smoky. He had missed the EM chaos 2022 because he did not want to be vaccinated. He endured discussions, including hostilities. “Of course, a lot has been written about me during this time regarding the big topic of Corona and of course that did not leave me indifferent. Then, of course, there was the difficult phase with the lions and for me personally , there was of course a completely new environment. A lot of things came together,” Knorr explained at a media event in April. “It wasn’t easy for me either – the season in general with difficult phases for me and it was not easy outside the handball field either.”

It’s finish. He can play the World Cup. The regulations require vaccination or recovered status: “I have been in contact with DHB for a long time, we have our agreements and everyone knows it. If I were to be in the final World Cup squad, that speaks for itself. and I should have met all the criteria accordingly,” Knorr said on Sky.

His training period is now over, leading Rhein-Neckar Löwen to the Bundesliga following the departure of perennial world-class playmaker Andy Schmid. He does it so successfully that after two very dark years in the sport, the two-time champion is once again a title contender. With 117 goals, he is third in the list of top scorers.

Knorr were already the center of attention on Saturday, the German team having long dominated the first part of the double test – then lost despite having a six-goal lead in the meantime. “He plays a huge game,” said national coach Alfred Gislason, “but only for 40 minutes.” Then, as Gislason said very openly, “a lot of technical errors, incredibly costly errors” led the German team to lose 30:31. In the preparation it is very annoying, in a tournament it is expensive. Captain Johannes Golla sees the biggest construction site before the start of the tournament in “keeping calm in the phases where you stray, having a plan on how you want to act and staying calm”. Of course, this is also an unspoken order for his own playmaker.

“Extreme responsibility” for Knorr

Much depends on Knorr in this team, which has always had its moments for years, but ultimately develops far too little penetrating power, especially in decisive games. Solid assistant Luca Witzke lacks the goal threat of Knorr, Philipp Weber, who has built the German game in previous tournaments, is more of a shooter than a manager and only plays in the middle in exceptional cases at the Magdeburg champions. In Hanover, the worthy weaver had only a few rather unfortunate situations.

With Juri Knorr, who moved to FC Barcelona at an early age and trained there as a youth before heading to Rhein-Neckar Löwen via GWD Minden and completing his training with Andy Schmid, you can finally see yourself at the DHB again. rejoice in a playmaker with whom we could close the gap with the best nations. And maybe no later than EM 2024 at home to be able to play seriously for medals again.

Although all did not go well in the friendly final against Iceland, Knorr delivered a convincing reaction to a kick-off. The boy was reprimanded again on the morning of the game, national coach Gislason said after the game. Now the Icelander was satisfied: “It was very good how he came back after the criticism.”

In the second game in 24 hours, the playmaker presented himself almost continuously as a director in the World Cup format. “Enough was said about the fact that there were too many mistakes yesterday in the decisive phase,” Golla said, looking at his playmaker. “But he also takes on a lot of responsibility, again playing in the middle during more than 60 minutes today. He directs our game and makes the right decisions over long periods. We need him in exactly this form if we want to play successfully.” The German team needs goals from Knorr, of his dynamism and playfulness. A package that no German middleman has brought with him for many years.

No one talks about Germany anymore

After disappointing years, during which the DHB team achieved the worst placement in the association’s long history in twelfth place in 2021, the 2016 European champion is no longer on the international list. “Personally, I think it will be the usual thing with Denmark, Sweden, Spain and France – and then I believe in our Icelandic friends,” Danish world-class player Mathias Gidsel recently told Mathias Gidsel, adding: “So keep a close eye on Iceland – but also on us.” Germany is no longer mentioned.

But as a handball player you face impossible tasks. From Friday, at the World Cup in Poland, initially feasible tasks await: Together with Qatar, Serbia and Algeria, they have caught an interesting but solvable group. Even in a possible main round, the way to the knockout round would be paved. He will then have to prove whether Knorr, whose father Thomas himself played 83 times for Germany, is already a crunchtime director if he could go against the French or the Spaniards in the quarter-finals. “It’s also good that something is expected of me”, says Knorr himself, “I want to play a bigger role”. It remains to be seen what the German team can do in Poland (and depending on how the tournament goes in the medal matches in Sweden) and what can’t. In any case, in Hanover, no one went home without an autograph.

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