Germany seal main round berth with nail-biting win against Serbia

15 Jan. 2023

Germany seal main round berth with nail-biting win against Serbia

Germany progressed to the main round of the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship after a nail-biting win against Serbia (34:33), with an excellent attacking display that Toni Gerona’s side could not stop.

Group E

Germany vs Serbia 34:33 (19:17)

It was pretty much the final of Group E, as Germany and Serbia won their first matches at Poland/Sweden 2023, with the two European powerhouses getting ready to battle for the first place in the group. A favourite? Hard to tell before the start of the match, with both sides having something going for them.

In the end, though, Germany simply had too much firepower for a Serbia defence that looked good in the past two years under the guidance of Spanish coach Toni Gerona, who really improved his side since taking over. But this time around, Serbia simply could not stop Germany, who looked excellent at times.

It all started with the attack, where Germany boasted a 93% efficiency by the 19th minute of the match, with the two Serbia goalkeepers ‚Äď Vladimir Cupara and Milan BomaŇ°tar ‚Äď failing to make any save. And in defence, Alfre√į Gislason‚Äôs side morphed from a traditional 6-0 to stop the game to a 5-1 that aimed to cool down Serbia‚Äôs creative force, centre back Lazar Kukińá.

But Germany did not manage to stop Kukińá entirely, rather than just put a dent in his performance. With right wing Bogdan Radivojevińá rising to the occasion, scoring five times in the first half, Serbia managed to keep the gap under the lid, while Germany never opened a gap larger than four goals.

By half-time, Serbia cut the gap to only two goals, 19:17, only for Germany to storm them at the start of the second part of the match, with a 5:1 run spurred by Juri Knorr, who once again dominated Germany’s attack, enabling Germany to take a commanding 26:21 lead. 

Knorr, the hummel Player of the Match against Qatar in Germany’s opening match at Poland/Sweden 2023, was an unstoppable force, scoring four times. But he lifted his side not necessarily through his scoring prowess, but rather by being a facilitator, dishing 11 assists.

What Germany did in attack, with superb efficiency, was to use their line players extensively, as captain Johannes Golla and Jannik Kohlbacher combined for 10 goals, much to the dismay of Serbia’s coach, Toni Gerona, who saw that his team had no answer to these combinations.

Yet it was not over. With Gerona constantly shifting the tactics, moving to an aggressive defence, Germany scored only two goals in the last 13 minutes of the match. But their lack of productivity was expertly hidden by goalkeeper Joel Birlehm, who superbly rose to the occasion in the last 15 minutes.

Birlehm, who does not boast considerable experience in major tournaments, had seven saves in this span, helping Germany in crunch time with one-on-one saves versus Radivojevińá or line player Mijailo Marsenińá.

There was nothing that Serbia could do to complete their comeback as Germany eventually sealed a 34:33 win, a nail-biting one, but enough to help them secure the main round berth, gifting Gislason’s side the benefit of tranquillity before their last match in the preliminary round against Algeria on Tuesday.

Despite playing a great game, Serbia lost the points but are still favourites to progress as they will likely be favoured in the last match of the group against Qatar.

hummel Player of the Match: Johannes Golla (Germany)