Germany return to quarter-finals with big win over the Netherlands

21 Jan. 2023

Germany return to quarter-finals with big win over the Netherlands

With another excellent display, Germany secured their fifth win in a row at the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship, 33:26 against the Netherlands, celebrating their progression to the quarter-finals at Poland/Sweden 2023. Norway have also qualified for the knockout phase of the competition as the two sides now have an unassailable lead on the top two places in Group III.

Main Group Round III

Netherlands vs Germany 26:33 (12:15)

Having received a Wild Card for the 2023 IHF Men’s World Championship, the Netherlands produced excellent performances in their return to the world handball flagship competition for the first time since 1961.

The first two wins were followed by a narrow loss against Norway (26:27), which meant that the Dutch side had little room for mistake in the next matches of the main round in Katowice, particularly in the one against Germany.

The maths were simple: if Germany won, they were in, joining Norway in the quarter-finals at Poland/Sweden 2023. If the Netherlands won, well, everything would have changed and Staffan Olsson’s side would have a chance to fight another day for a place in the knockout round of the competition.

Until another day, though, they chose to fight on Saturday evening, where a sea of German fans flocked to the Spodek Arena in Katowice to cheer for their favourites, who were aiming to start the IHF Men’s World Championship with five wins in a row for the first time since 2003.

But for the first 10 minutes, everything for Germany was connected to number two. Juri Knorr and Julian Köster each scored two goals, goalkeeper Andreas Wolff had two saves, and the Netherlands kept their opponents at bay, creating the setup for a crunch match.

Germany then went on a 3:0 unanswered run, as Wolff started to get hot between the posts, reading his opponents better and better. Meanwhile, Juri Knorr really began to get into the groove after missing his first three shots of the match, constantly hampered by an aggressive 5-1 defence from the Netherlands.

Until the end of the first half, Knorr had six goals and three assists with a direct hand in 60% of Germany’s goals in the match, once again scoring and creating at an impressive pace, confirming his status as the leader of this new iteration of Germany. But the real star was goalkeeper Andreas Wolff, who saved 10 shots for an excellent 48% saving efficiency, constantly saving his team in crucial moments.

As for the Netherlands, it quickly became apparent that they needed more from their supporting cast, having to rely repeatedly on their best scorer, right back Kai Smits, and their best assists provider, centre back Luc Steins. The two combined for six goals and four assists in the first part of the match where the Dutch side only boasted a 55% shooting efficiency.

It was clear that they needed more in the second part, which they started three goals down, 12:15, with their future in the competition on the line, a loss meaning that they were eliminated. However, they did not even get close to sniffing the win, as the start of the second half was the pivotal moment of the match.

For nine minutes and 18 seconds, the Netherlands struggled to get their attack going, with the turnovers piling up. And Germany was not going to help their opponents get a free pass, taking a 5:0 run, inspired by two goals and an assist from Juri Knorr, to create a huge lead, 21:13, which proved to be unassailable.

Knorr was in fact pretty much unstoppable, celebrating his best performance in his career at the IHF Men’s World Championship, finishing with nine goals and five assists, another excellent performance for a player who has proved to be one of the surprises of the competition.

But Germany could simply not have won were it not for the one-man-show delivered by goalkeeper Andreas Wolff, the recipient of the hummel Player of the Match award, who saved 17 shots for a 43% saving efficiency and is now the goalkeeper with the second-largest number of saves in the competition after five matches with 48 saves, eight less than the Netherlands’ Bart Ravensbergen.

Eventually, Germany secured a 33:26 win, which saw them progress to the quarter-finals for the first time since the 2019 edition of the IHF Men’s World Championship, with Norway also progressing as the two powerhouses have a four-point lead at the top of the group ahead of the Netherlands and Serbia with only one match to go.

For the first time since 2003, Germany started the competition with five wins in a row, yet they will still be looking to finish first in the group when they face Norway in the last match of Group III of the main round in Katowice, needing only a draw to seal that place.

On the other hand, the Netherlands must win against Serbia, also already eliminated, in their last match to finish third and earn a chance to end up in the top 10 of Poland/Sweden 2023. Still a remarkable achievement for a side that make their first appearance since 1961.

hummel Player of the Match: Andreas Wolff (Germany)