Wolff-inspired Germany seal fifth place at Poland/Sweden 2023

29 Jan. 2023

Wolff-inspired Germany seal fifth place at Poland/Sweden 2023

On the wings of an 18-save performance from Andreas Wolff, Germany secured their seventh win in nine matches at Poland/Sweden 2023, 28:24, against Norway, clinching fifth place in the final standings of the competition, the fourth time in the last eight editions of the competition that Germany finish in the top 5.

Placement Match 5/6

Germany vs Norway 28:24 (16:13)

It was not the most glamorous of settings as the fans were still preparing for the last two matches of the 28th IHF Men's World Championship in the Tele2 Arena in Stockholm. However, Germany and Norway still produced high-quality handball in the Placement Match 5/6, only six days after their excellent clash in Katowice, in the final match of Group III in the main round at Poland/Sweden 2023.

Norway clinched a 28:26 win in that match, slowing down the tempo in the second half, when only 20 goals were scored after an outburst of 34 goals in the first half, but Germany learned a thing or two from that loss, which sent them in a crunch quarter-final match against France.

Lesson number one was to become better in defence, which was ticked in the first half of Sunday's early doors match, especially as goalkeeper Andreas Wolff delivered a masterclass in shot-stopping in the first 30 minutes, going to the locker room with an excellent 41% saving efficiency powered by nine saves, including three penalties, frustrating key Norway players Sander Sagosen and Sebastian Barthold.

Wolff also became the first goalkeeper to save at least 100 shots during the IHF Men's World Championship since 2015, when France's hero Thierry Omeyer, who was also named MVP of that championship, saved 109 shots to help "Les Experts" win the title.

This excellent performance freed Germany and acted as a morale boost in attack, where their top goal scorer in this tournament, Juri Knorr, was mostly rested and only entered to shoot penalties, which he converted with 100% efficiency, scoring four times to become the third player in the tournament to break the 50-goal milestone. 

Knorr improved his overall tally at Poland/Sweden 2023 to 53 goals, which now means that Denmark right back Mathias Gidsel, now at 54 goals in the competition, needs to score a single goal in the final against France to clinch the best goal scorer title for the first time in his career.

Preventing Norway from scoring for six minutes and 36 seconds was also helpful in establishing a baseline for Germany, who controlled the match but left a door open for a comeback from their opponents as they only held a three-goal lead at the break (16:13).

It looked like game over for Norway at the start of the second half when the gap ballooned to six goals after a 5:2 run for Germany in the first eight minutes, once again with Wolff running the show and constantly frustrating his opponents, while Norway's star Sagosen was limited to only two goals from eight shots.

Whenever the Scandinavian side tried to mount a comeback, they were denied by Wolff over and over again, with Germany's goalkeeper finishing the match with 18 saves for 43% efficiency on his way to winning the "hummel Player of the Match" award for the third time in this competition after the matches against the Netherlands and Egypt. 

His 17th save, when Norway tried to cut the gap to two goals with three minutes left, was the decisive moment of the match as Germany kept their advantage while Wolff improved his overall tally in the competition to 112 saves.

Eventually, Germany sealed a 28:24 win, their seventh in nine matches, their largest tally in the competition since Germany 2007, when they secured the title, finishing in the top 5 at the IHF Men's World Championship for the fourth time in the last eight editions of the competition.

On the other hand, Norway end up in sixth place, exactly like at Egypt 2021, also dropping only two matches – the one against Spain in the quarter-finals, in extra-time, and the one against Germany. This is the sixth consecutive time for the Scandinavian side to finish in the top 10, being one of the most consistent European teams at the IHF Men's World Championship.

hummel Player of the Match: Andreas Wolff (Germany)