Germany won the bronze medal in the men’s handball competition at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad by a decisive six-goal margin, beating Poland with a strong performance that meant the match was decided in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.
“From the start until the end of the game they were better and stronger physically. And I can only say that I am very proud of the guys in my team,” said Poland coach Talant Dujshebaev after the match. “I am sure that in April when we were playing the Qualification Tournament if someone told us we would be in the semi-final and be just one small step from the final I would take it.”
“I think Talant said everything right: I think we were the stronger team from the beginning. Even when they were three goals up I still had a good feeling about this game, as I knew they were playing on our errors. That speaks for a talented coach and a good team,” Germany coach Dagur Sigurdsson said.
“This is the most difficult match in handball in my opinion, from a mental side. It shows how far our team have come – I am very happy and proud for my team.”
Future Arena, Sunday 21 August
Bronze-medal match: Poland vs Germany 25:31 (13:17)
Following his outstanding performances in the quarter and semi-finals, Poland started with Piotr Wyszomirski in goal in place of Slawomir Szmal. He stood behind 5-1 defence with Mateusz Jachlewski pushing forward, and coach Talant Dujshebaev’s tactic worked well initially to keep Germany out of the goal until the fifth minute while Poland scored the first two goals of the match.
Paul Drux added the opening goal for the European champions before Andreas Wolff made his first save, followed by another that showed he had recovered from his disappointing semi-final. Germany levelled just after the fifth minute off a breakthrough from Fabian Wiede, and from there the game was level until the end of the first 10 minutes.
Just after the 10-minute mark Karol Bielecki tallied his third on a penalty (5:5), before Poland added three unanswered goals that took them ahead to 8:5 midway through the half. After Michal Daszek scored the third on a fast break Germany coach Dagur Sigurdsson requested the first time-out of the match. His team returned to the court stronger, taking their turn to record a 3:0 run that levelled the game at 8:8 when captain Uwe Gensheimer scored off a wide angle in the 19th.
Following Gensheimer’s goal Germany keeper Silvio Heinevetter came on court for a penalty against Bielecki, which he saved to keep the score where it was, and his team opened a two-goal advantage in the next attack thanks to Steffen Weinhold (10:8, 22nd).
Germany kept the distance at two as the last five minutes of the half began, and moved ahead to a three-goal advantage at 13:10 when Weinhold broke through just inside the 27th. With five seconds left before the break Tobias Reichmann scored a fast break that earned Germany a four-goal lead as the half-time whistle sounded, and when the match resumed they kept that difference until Reichmann increased the advantage to five with a goal from his position in the 38th (20:15). Less than 60 seconds later Reichmann struck again on a fast break, taking the score to 21:15 as Bielecki was sent off for two minutes.
By the time the last quarter of the game began, Germany were comfortably in control at 25:18 as Wolff made his 11th save off a wing shot from Daszek. When he stopped what should have been an easy goal off a breakthrough from Krzysztof Lijewski to put his rate at 39% in the 22nd, Germany stayed in front at 26:20.
As the clock ticked toward full-time, it became clear the bronze medal had been decided in the opening 10 minutes of the second period. Though Poland worked hard they could not overcome the deficit created before the 40-minute mark, and when the score stood at 26:20 as the last 10 minutes began, Germany knew they only had to hold on to the final whistle.