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“Don't worry about the future”

“Don't worry about the future”

The bar is set high, perhaps a touch too high. Two months after finishing eighth in the European Championships, Austrian handball players were setting their sights on seizing the next historic opportunity in the Olympic qualifiers, but they narrowly missed it.

The hopes were justified, but the disappointment was great. Team president Ales Pajovic said: “It hurts,” but at the same time he looked ahead with optimism. “When I see this team, I don't have any worries about the future.”

“It only took a little for this game to turn around,” agrees the ÖHB team.

Last but not least was Austria's nerve-wracking match against host country Germany in the tournament qualifiers on Sunday. The Red, White and Red kept their options open for the necessary victory until the final few minutes, but then they fell short, not least because of themselves. And the self-evidence, the flow that supported the team in the European Championship, wanted to continue. It can be felt in Hanover and has not been completely modified.

“It took a while for this game to turn around, for us to get to -1,” said backstage player Lukas Hoček, describing the situation in the final minutes. Because even though they were always trailing from 2:3 onwards, the DHB Seven could not break away decisively.

The pressure and nervousness were also noticeable in the team that finished fourth in the European Championship, whose coach Alfred Gislason would have lost his job in the event of failure.

“There was just a little bit missing,” Pajovic cried after having the opportunity to become the first domestic men's team to compete in the Olympics since 1952.

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“Personal errors” and defensive instability cost Austria their Olympic ticket

Captain Mykola Bilek, who was in top form in the opening defeat at 29:35 and the win over Algeria at 41:26, tried to maintain his composure. “Unfortunately, we punished ourselves over and over again with our mistakes and were not consistent enough in certain situations,” the Kiel Corps member said.

And last but not least, the defence, which was a masterpiece of the European Championship coupled with the performance of the goalkeeper, was not able to control the Croats or the Germans significantly. The fact that the game remained so open on Sunday despite not saving a ball until the 20th minute is even more impressive.

Then youngster Leon Bergman, tipped to replace the injured Ralph Patrick Housley, made his mark time and again.

In his third cap, the 19-year-old promised 37 percent for the future, which will likely go back to Konstantin Mostel for now. Even if the 23-year-old can't continue his impressive European Championship in Hannover.

The ÖHB team wants to achieve high goals in the future

In any case, fans of the local team can look forward to the coming years with optimism. “Even six months ago, it would not have been possible for me to talk about the Olympic Games. That's why I feel incredibly proud,” Hocek emphasized.

“No team in the world will underestimate us, given what we showed in the last few matches,” Bielik predicted. “This is no longer a surprise team,” Gislason agreed.

“We have a very young team that can still develop further,” Bielik said, referring to the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. “If we continue on this path, I hope something will happen in four years.” Of course, they are just sweet melodies from the distant future.

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“We are already looking forward to the next goal, which is the 2025 World Cup,” Pajovic confirmed. Any misstep would be embarrassing given its recent performance: Georgia is a complete outsider in the playoffs in May.