Even if there was the next preliminary round defeat, the German volleyball players drew a little courage for the EM round of 16.

“We’ve played against Poland several times this summer and it was always super close. Maybe they’re just due now,” said captain Lena Stigrot, looking at the opponent in the first game of the knockout round in Brussels, Belgium (8 p.m /Sportdeutschland.tv).

Previously, the German team had lost 0:3 against Turkey in the last game of the home round of the European Championships in Düsseldorf. But against what is currently possibly the best team in the world, the Germans improved continuously on Thursday evening. The third set was on the brink and went into overtime until 26:28. The acceptance was significantly improved, the team was finally able to generate pressure again with serves. “It was a good reaction to the last two games. To show again: We’re fully there. We want to fight,” said Stigrot.

Orthmann injury puts a damper on him

Because with the disappointing defeats against Sweden and the Czech Republic, the selection of national coach Vital Heynen had gambled away the chances of a better starting position for the round of 16. Heynen also outweighed that on Thursday evening. “We didn’t come here to finish third, we were confident that we would get second place.” There were two wins and three defeats in Düsseldorf. The goal was four successes.

“Of course there are many explanations for this, but in the end you have the feeling that it’s a shame,” said the 54-year-old. The German hopes suffered the decisive damper in the first game against Greece. Key player Hanna Orthmann landed unluckily after a point and immediately indicated that something was wrong. It was a serious knee injury.

Even if the 25-year-old is not yet a player like Melissa Vargas in Turkey, she has repeatedly been the top scorer for Germany in recent months – with her “incredible arm”, as Heynen puts it. After the retirements of Louisa Lippmann, Kimberly Drewniok and Jennifer Janiska in recent years, Orthmann’s default was one mortgage too many. “You always dream of a lot,” said Heynen. “And sometimes you come back down to earth.”

“Knowing that this will be a difficult task”

But the Germans will have a positive memory of the scenery in the Castello Düsseldorf. “The audience was really indescribable. I’ve never experienced that in Germany,” said Stigrot. A mixture of German and Turkish fans created a very special atmosphere.

For Heynen, the round of 16 is special in two ways: In his home country Belgium he is going against Poland, with whose men’s team he became world champion in 2018. He sees the roles clearly distributed. “Poland are the big favourites,” he said. “We know it will be a very difficult task. But today we showed that in the end it got better and better.” His team had to put the Poles under pressure from the start.

In the Nations League there were two narrow defeats against the neighboring country – but still with Orthmann. Against Turkey, the team showed that they can keep up with the world-class selection at times. Consistency is now needed in the round of 16. “We then have to maintain this level for a longer period of time. That’s the challenge for us now,” said Lina Alsmeier.