‘All eyes on four pots’ will be the motto for European handball next Tuesday (16 June) at 17:00 CEST, when the eight qualification groups for the Men’s EHF EURO 2022 in Hungary and Slovakia will be drawn in Vienna (draw procedure).
Besides the two hosts, EHF EURO 2020 winners Spain and runners-up Croatia are already qualified for the event, leaving 32 nations waiting for their opponents in the upcoming qualifiers to decide the remaining 20 participants.
The qualifiers will be staged in six rounds between October 2020 and May 2021, with teams divided into eight groups. All group winners and runners-up as well as the four best third-ranked teams will book their tickets to Hungary and Slovakia.
One of the teams eagerly awaiting Tuesday’s draw are two-time champions Germany. The team around captain Uwe Gensheimer missed the semi-final at the EHF EURO in January, only beaten by the two eventual finalists, Spain and Croatia.
Only 11 days after finishing the event in fifth place, Germany changed their head coach as Alfred Gislason replaced Christian Prokop.
At that time, the COVID-19 pandemic was still to come.
Physically and mentally strong
Initially, Gensheimer wasn’t too bothered by the unexpected break of all handball activities in Europe.
“I suffered from a foot injury and could not be part of the first training week with Alfred Gislason in the middle of March and would have missed our test match against Netherlands,” the left wing said.
“I could recover perfectly as I had not been under pressure to be back at a certain date, as all matches had been postponed.”
The Bundesliga, with Gensheimer’s Rhein-Neckar Löwen in fifth place, and the EHF Cup were stopped. The Olympic Qualification Tournament was postponed. And the European play-off for the World Championship 2021, where Germany was supposed to take on Ukraine, was cancelled.
“We players have often complained about the workload and the tough schedule in handball, now we are forced to have many weeks without matches and traveling,” Gensheimer said. “I hope that we all will return physically and mentally strong when the new season starts.”
After weeks of individual workouts, Gensheimer and his teammates were allowed to train in small groups in the Löwen training hall. But when remainder of the Bundesliga season was cancelled, players went back to working individually again.
“I had some shots against the wall, but we know that we have to restart quite slowly, because of the danger of potential injuries,” the German captain said.
With the draw coming up next week, the perspective of playing matches again is slowly returning.
“I am now really looking forward to see my teammates on club and national team level and love to have a normal training session sometimes, with competitive situations,” Gensheimer said.
However, his first official match with the national team will only be in late October for the first EHF EURO 2022 qualifier.
“It is strange that our last national team match was at the EHF EURO, when we beat Portugal in the 5/6 placement match at Stockholm, and the next one is in the qualification for the next EHF EURO,” Gensheimer said.
As for the EHF EURO qualification, Gensheimer is eager to see which teams Germany will face on their way to Hungary and Slovakia.
“I have no wish for specific opponents. I have played in almost every European country, so even in terms of travel I have no special wish where to go,” he said. “The main thing for me and the whole handball community is that we will have matches, no matter where.”
Personal best result
Germany’s fifth-place finish at EHF EURO 2020 was Gensheimer’s personal best result in the competition. Due to injury, he missed the 2016 edition when Germany won gold.
Now 33, the left wing had his EHF EURO debut in 2010, meaning 2020 was only his fourth European Championship as Germany missed qualification for the 2014 event in Denmark.
With 907 goals in 184 international games, the three-time VELUX EHF Champions League top scorer is third on the all-time scorers’ list of the German national team.