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Wolff saves EHF EURO gold for Germany

REVIEW: Germany win the Men's EHF EURO for the second time in history, beating Spain 24:17, but their matchwinner without doubt was the man between the posts

Photo: Uros Hocevar

It's Germany! For the second time after 2004, Germany top the podium at a Men’s EHF EURO event.

On Sunday in the sold-out TAURON Arena they beat Spain in a one-sided and low-scoring final 24:17 (10:6) to take the trophy.

The match winner was the German All-star team goalkeeper Andreas Wolff who saved 16 shots, literally turning himself into a human wall in goal.

“It was an amazing feeling, it was an amazing match with great defence and (Andreas) Wolff was stunning so Spain had no chance. From the first minute to the last it was an incredible game," said Germany's Carsten Lichtlein. 

Wolff was the main reason that Germany easily extended the Spanish losing streak in EHF EURO finals. Previously they had lost to Sweden in 1996, to Russia in 1998 and to France in 2006.

The 41 goals scored overall were the second lowest number in a Men’s EHF EURO Final just one goal shy of the 40 goals in Denmark's 21:19 win against Serbia in 2012.

But the seven-goal difference was not the biggest in a final: In 1994 Sweden beat Russia 34:21, in 2014 France beat Denmark 41:32.

With the win Germany received the big jackpot, as they not only take the championship plate home but also a direct ticket to the 2016 Olympic Games. Together with Spain and Croatia they are also already qualified for the World Championship 2017 in France.

“I was probably the most pumped up in the stadium and that's because of the Olympics! I am so happy that we qualified for it because it was my dream and now it came true. I cried, of course,” said Lichtlein.

The top scorer of the match was German right back Kai Häfner who scored seven times. In the overall top scorer ranking Spain's Valero Rivera finished on top with 48 goals, two ahead of Germany's Tobias Reichmann (46).

The first half was already historic. Never before in any Men’s EHF EURO Final had a team only scored six goals.

The reason why Spain trailed 6:10 after the first 30 minutes had a name: Andreas Wolff.

The German goalie saved like an octopus with eight arms, saving more than half of all Spanish shots in the first half.

The reason why Germany had not decided the match already at the break also had a name: Arpad Sterbik. The Spanish goalkeeper blocked eight shots and reached a saving percentage of 44.

Germany had the better start to the game and forged ahead to 5:1 after 10 minutes. Even an early timeout taken by Spanish coach Manuel Cadenas did not change the game's rundown.

But Germany played too tough in defence and the fact that they received five two-minute suspensions before the break allowed Spain to come back with three goals at 9:6, but then Julius Kühn scored for the eventual half-time score of 10:6..

And the entire German team was far away from being satisfied with their first-half performance.

Thanks to two unanswered goals they increased the lead to 12:6 and when Kai Häfner netted at 16:9 in for the 16:9 with only 16 minutes left to play, the way to the podium was paved.

Spain did not surrender completely, but acknowledged that the deal was sealed in Germany's favour.

"It’s a disaster how we played. I don’t have a lot of explanations," said Rivera. "Everything was bad, defence as attack. We lost balls that we never lose. We missed counter attacks and easy shots. It was a bad day. We gave everything but nothing worked. We have to have a look at this match several times and work so for that never happens again."

Due to this defeat, Spain will face Slovenia, Iran and Sweden in Tournament 2 of the Olympic Qualification from 8 to 10 April.

In Tournament 1 Poland, FYR Macedonia, Chile and Tunisia fight for two tickets to Rio 2016 and so do Denmark, Croatia, Norway and Bahrain in Tournament 3.

written by Björn Pazen / ts