Accompanied by some unrest surrounding the involuntary departure of sports director Axel Kromer at the end of the year and some high-profile failures, Germany’s handball players are starting their Olympic casting. National coach Alfred Gislason will be watching the new edition of the small final of the last European Championship against Sweden this Sunday (2.30 p.m./ZDF livestream) in Växjö very closely. There are only eleven weeks until the start of the Olympics on July 27th against the same opponent.

“We will try one or the other, but of course it is not unimportant how the performance against Sweden will be. We want to show a good game,” said Gislason in Copenhagen, where the DHB selection has been preparing for the duel with the team since the beginning of the week Prepared for third place in the European Championship. For the 64-year-old Icelander, the game should provide some pointers towards Paris, especially since he is only allowed to nominate 14 players plus three substitutes for the summer games.

A decent performance would be important for the mood in the team, which has been waiting for a win against the three-crown team for eight years. The last success to date came in 2016 at the Rio Olympics, where the DHB selection prevailed in the preliminary round with 32:29 and later won bronze. In the following seven duels there were five defeats and two draws.

DHB separates from sports director Kromer

“Sweden is a team that is among the best in the world. This is exactly the yardstick we need to get to the higher level. For us, this is a good opportunity to test where we stand,” said captain Johannes Golla about the importance of the international match.

The preparation for this was somewhat overshadowed by the news that the German Handball Association was not extending the contract with sports director Kromer, which expired on December 31st. The DHB executive board decided this last Saturday in Bremen. “We are very sad about this,” said Gislason.

The 47-year-old Kromer has been working for the association in various functions since 2012 and has been the sports director since 2017. “It’s always a shame when someone with whom you’ve worked well together for many years can’t continue on the path. It’s a shame that we lose someone who has put a lot of work and passion into the whole structure over the past few years.” said Golla to the cause.

Gislason has to do without several national players

When the 16-person DHB team travels from the Danish capital to southern Sweden on Friday, this should no longer be an issue. The focus is then only on the game, which a number of top performers will miss. In addition to the injured Sebastian Heymann, Jannik Kohlbacher, Nils Lichtlein and Renars Uscins, director Juri Knorr, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Thursday, is also missing.

Due to an infection, the backcourt player from the Bundesliga club Rhein-Neckar Löwen decided not to travel to the DHB course. “Juri is sick and is being treated in Mannheim. So it makes no sense. He should now get really healthy for the final phase of the season in the Bundesliga,” said Gislason.

This means that 20-year-old backcourt player Marko Grgic from Bundesliga newcomers ThSV Eisenach is about to make his debut. “He played a very good season, which is why we took him with us. He will almost certainly play his first international match,” announced Gislason. However, Grgic is not an option for the Olympic tournament.