Germany’s great hope beats worries

Köster shines against Qatar
Germany’s great hope beats worries

By Felix Meininghaus, Katowice

A 22-year-old player from VfL Gummersbach surprises with his courageous and calm performances in the national handball team. The opening World Cup victory against Qatar makes you want more – also because the injury to solid goalkeeper Wolff is probably not that serious.

The twelfth minute of the match against Qatar will have a very special meaning in the personal handball diary of handball player Julian Köster for eternity: the VfL longline player Gummersbach received the ball, ran towards the opposition cover, lifted and slammed the ball over his opponents’ outstretched arms from the right angle. It was the first goal of his national team career for the very young player.

A small moment in the glorious history of the selection of the German Handball Federation (DHB), but certainly a great moment in the life of the 22-year-old player, born in Bielefeld in eastern Westphalia: Köster scored his first goal in a championship world in his young career, and no one needs to be a prophet to predict that this feeling of accomplishment will be followed by many others.

At that moment, however, it didn’t matter, when the ball rushed into the net, he just thought “to get back into cover as quickly as possible to close ranks”, reported the athlete two meters long after the end of the Mixed Zone part.

When the opener ended and the experiences of an intense encounter slowly set in, Köster began to put things into perspective. “It was a really good time,” he said, and a smile spread across his sweaty face, suggesting this day will always be special.

Wolff holds the victory

Of course, this was mainly due to the fact that the performance of the German team was refined with a well-deserved victory of 31:27 (18:13). It was a bit spectacular but all in all a well-deserved victory against an opponent who had suffered a painful defeat in the round of 16 of the 2017 World Cup in France. Six years later, the Qataris acted largely conservatively, although they managed to put the weakened Germans under temporary pressure in the second half.

The fact that it hasn’t come close yet is mainly down to once again outstanding goalkeeper Andreas Wolff, who kept the German side in the game with 19 saves in 60 minutes. In addition, the professional who works in Kielce, Poland, shone with his long throws, which he placed precisely on the fast pace of the counterattack runner. Handball players call these passes “lies”. Wolff plays them with incredible precision that only American football legend quarterback Tom Brady can do.

If the DHB selection wants to go far in the World Cup, it is absolutely dependent on the current gala form of its goalkeeper. In this regard, it was an alarming signal when Wolff grabbed his calf in the last minute of the match and signaled that he wanted to be taken off the field.

The burly athlete limped into the locker room and handball nation Germany began to worry that they would now have to do without their most important protagonists. Captain Johannes Golla said he didn’t want to waste a thought on this scenario, “because it is extremely important for us”. And right-winger Patrick Groetzki added that he still relied heavily on the world-class man between the posts because he was “pretty tough”: “I’m not really worried about that.” Indeed, the DHB media service gave the green light in the evening: Wolff will keep the German goal as usual in the second group game against Serbia on Sunday (6 p.m.).

The coach is happy too

If the age-old handball wisdom is in fact correct that a good goalkeeping performance is always aided by a functioning defense, captain Golla and Julian Köster can confidently congratulate each other. The duo form a stable central block in their own circle, which did little except for a weak phase midway through the second half. Golla praised his neighbor enthusiastically, saying Köster was “very consistent despite his young age. If we want to achieve anything here, we absolutely need him to stay in top form”.

National coach Alfred Gislason can only agree, praising one of his favorite pupils on the green clover: “Julian is an extremely talented defensive player with a bright future,” says the 63-year-old. The Icelander took it upon himself that Köster’s play was flawed in the second half. He realized too late that Köster was getting tired and making technical mistakes.

In the end, it was nothing more than a side note, as the German team fought through the dip and held on to the all-important opening victory. At the end, Gislason was asked if he was superstitious and doubted winning because his team’s first World Cup fell on a Friday the 13th. The coach smiled and had a nice answer ready: “At otherwise, because today is my mother’s birthday.”

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