dAfter the good start to the Olympic qualification, the German handball players embraced each other, as if they already had the ticket to Paris in their pockets. With a brave performance in 31:25 (17:14) against Slovenia National coach Markus Gaugisch's team set off on Thursday in Neu-Ulm for their first Olympic participation since Beijing 2008.

“We did it today with a lot of self-understanding and self-confidence. “We were all under pressure because we really want to go to the Olympic Games,” said the national coach. “Coming into the tournament with a six-goal victory gives a lot of confidence,” DHB sporting director Axel Kromer added confidently.

“Go up a level”

The best German scorer in front of 4,026 spectators was defense player Julia Maidhof, with nine goals against Slovenia. The next rival of the DHB team is the third place in the European Championship, Montenegro. “We have to go one step further on Saturday,” said co-captain Alina Grijseels.

With another victory, the DHB team can make the trip to the Summer Games perfect. On Sunday we face outsider Paraguay. To get a ticket to the Olympic Games, the German team must at least finish second in the tournament. “We have taken another step towards our dream of Paris,” said left winger Antje Döll after the inaugural victory.

The goalkeeper provides the necessary security

Even before the start there was good news for the DHB team. Grijseels recovered in time just a week after suffering an ankle injury in the Euro qualifier against Ukraine. The French legionary had to get to work immediately in the hectic opening phase, because Emily Bölk and Xenia Smits, who were in the defense zone, received time penalties from the start.

The DHB team started strongly and for the first time took the lead with three goals (6:3) after ten minutes. However, some lapses in concentration allowed the Slovenians to tie within a few minutes. However, the sixth-place finisher in the World Cup was not impressed and continued to act with determination in attack. The reward was another three-goal lead (11:8), which was extended to five goals four minutes before the break. Goalkeeper Katharina Filter played an important role in this, giving the German team the security they needed with numerous saves.

After the change, both teams started nervously and made several mistakes. The home team's advantage remained constant, between three and four goals. In addition to Maidhof, defensive ace Smits and left winger Johanna Stockschläder were particularly convincing in attack, who, after a failed first attempt, put all of her next four shots on goal.

In the final phase, the German team once again took advantage and went ahead goal by goal. Filter continued to provide strong support between the posts and attacks were mostly completed in a concentrated manner in front. Success in the duel with the Slovenes was no longer in danger. The national coach spoke of a successful start. And Smits, who contributed six goals to the victory, said with relief: “We didn't expect us to handle it with so much confidence.”