Powerhouse georg grozer and the german volleyball team can’t afford a misstep. In a mini-european championship with top-class players, the team of national coach andrea giani, driven by its star attacker, wants to fulfill its dream of tokyo.
Four years after the painful missed olympic chance for rio, the max-schmeling-halle in berlin will again be the fateful place for the european championship runner-up of 2017. "I have a deep conviction in me that we can do it," declared player and captain lukas kampa (33) ahead of the german opener in group A on sunday (19.30 o’clock/sport1) against the supposedly easiest preliminary round opponent czech republic.
The cutthroat competition in the capital is merciless. Only the winner of the eight-team tournament secures a ticket to japan. "It’s harder to qualify than to win a medal at the olympics," giani said before the start. "A lot depends on the will and the willingness to sacrifice and give everything."
Five games in just six days, including the final on friday, await germany in the best case scenario. "You can’t afford a misstep," kampa conceded in front of the dense XXL program. "The permanent voltage accompanies us."
Berlin is the springboard to the olympics for the third time in a row. In 2012, the germans made it to london; in 2016, they lost their chance at rio in a dramatic duel against world champions poland. Kampa described the match as one of the "most painful defeats" of his career. Given the preliminary round group with the czech republic, belgium and slovenia, the european championship runners-up, he is "very, very convinced" that olympic qualification is possible. The constellation also gives the team the "opportunity to grow and improve," giani said.
Olympics can only succeed with grozer (35) in top form. At the mixed european championships last fall, the athlete dubbed "hammerschorsch" because of his punching power still had a training backlog. This is what the russian legionnaire from zenit st has to say. Petersburg long left behind. Grozer has already made it clear on several occasions that tokyo is his last major goal as a national player. If the qualification in berlin does not succeed, his career on the international stage is over.
Middle blocker marcus bohme (34) also sees his career on the straight and narrow, kampa also wahnt himself in the "autumn or winter" of his international career. His thoughts, meanwhile, are only "about what comes next."And the captain himself around the importance of grozer for the success of the team. "Georg won’t push us through the qualification alone," said kampa, "but he can make the difference at the top level and give us extra energy."
Giani has set a new stimulus with the nomination of libero markus steuerwald (30). More than two and a half years after his last international match, the veteran was called up by vfb friedrichshafen for the tournament. Steuerwald is expected to increase the pressure on the team’s number one player julian zenger (22) of the champion berlin volleys. "I’m there to help," he told the german press agency. "I know the whole situation and the pressure."Steuerwald was there in 2012 and 2016 as well.
The german team’s toughest rivals for participation in tokyo will be slovenia, european champions serbia and european fourth-placed france from group B. The germans must deliver top performances from the semifinals at the latest. "Heart and head must work," said grozer.