After the strong start to the Olympic qualification, Germany’s handball players were cheering in each other’s arms as if they already had the ticket to Paris in their pockets. With a courageous performance in the 31:25 (17:14) win against Slovenia, national coach Markus Gaugisch’s team set course for their first Olympic participation since Beijing 2008 in Neu-Ulm.

“We did it today with a lot of self-understanding and self-confidence. We were all under pressure because we really want to go to the Olympics,” said the national coach. “Going into the tournament with a six-goal win gives a lot of security,” added DHB sports director Axel Kromer confidently.

The best German thrower in front of 4,026 spectators was backcourt player Julia Maidhof with nine goals against Slovenia. The next opponent of the DHB selection is the European Championship third place Montenegro. “We have to go one step further on Saturday,” said co-captain Alina Grijseels.

With another win, the DHB selection can make the trip to the summer games perfect. On Sunday we face outsiders Paraguay. In order to secure a ticket to the Olympics, the German team must at least finish second in the tournament. “We are one step closer to our dream of Paris,” said left winger Antje Döll after the opening win.

Good news before kick-off

Even before kick-off there was good news for the DHB selection. Grijseels reported fit on time just a week after suffering an ankle injury in the European Championship qualifier against Ukraine. The French legionnaire had to get going straight away in the fast-paced opening phase because Emily Bölk and Xenia Smits, who were in the backcourt, received time penalties early on.

The DHB team started powerfully and led by three goals for the first time at 6:3 after a good ten minutes. However, a few lapses in concentration allowed the Slovenians to equalize within a few minutes.

Goalkeeper Filter shines with numerous saves

However, the sixth place in the World Cup was not impressed by this and continued to act purposefully in attack. The reward was a renewed three-goal lead (11:8), which was extended to five goals four minutes before the break. Goalkeeper Katharina Filter played a major role in this, giving the German team the security they needed with numerous saves.

After the change, both teams started nervously and made a number of mistakes. The hosts’ lead remained constant at three to four goals. In addition to Maidhof, backcourt ace Smits and left winger Johanna Stockschläder were particularly convincing in the attack, who, after a first failed attempt, put all of her following four throws into the goal.

In the final phase, the German team pulled ahead again and was ahead goal by goal. Filter continued to provide strong support between the posts, and the attacks were mostly completed in a concentrated manner at the front. Success in the duel with the Slovenians was no longer in danger. The national coach spoke of a successful start. And Smits, who contributed six goals to the win, said with relief: “We didn’t expect us to solve it so confidently.”