“On a Mission”: Schröder and Co. on Nowitzki’s footsteps
Germany has basketball fever. The unexpected successes of Schröder and Co. even wake up the television. The victory against Greece was a great moment.
Live games at prime time on free TV, full halls and huge euphoria: on your medal mission of Germany Riesen triggered a basketball boom that was hardly thought possible before the European Championships at home.
With the first semi-final entry since the Dirk Nowitzki era 17 years ago, the team wants a captain Dennis Schroeder but not satisfied. “Before the European Championships, a medal was the goal. Of course we want gold now,” said center Daniel Theis after the breathtaking 107:96 in the quarterfinals against title favorite Greece with NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
In a furious way, Schröder and Co. not only took them with them Antetokounmpo, but numerous other Euroleague-experienced professionals apart Greek team. The second half in front of 14,073 completely ecstatic fans in the arena at Berlin’s Ostbahnhof and a peak of 2.06 million people on RTL was the best that a German team has played in decades. The reward: In addition to MagentaSport, RTL will also broadcast the semifinals against Spain live on Friday (8:30 p.m.).
“It’s unbelievable for German basketball how these guys have performed on German soil so far,” praised the national coach Gordon Herbert his selection. “People can see the team’s identity and identify with it,” said the Canadian, who has played a major role in Germany’s upswing. “I already said in October that we want to win a medal at the European Championships. A lot of people looked at me as if I was crazy.”
But now the first medal since silver at the EM 2005 in Serbia is no longer a utopia. In the semi-finals, world champion Spain is again waiting for a basketball superpower. But just like the German team around Energizer Franz Wagner, who recovered in time from an ankle injury, three-point throw titan Andreas Obst and leader Schröder so far against top opponents like France, Lithuania, Slovenia and now Greece occurred, there is no limit for the hosts. “We’re not done yet,” Obst summed it up.
The Herbert team has undergone a development that no one would have thought possible just a few weeks ago. The cancellations of important players like Maxi Kleber, Tibor Pleiss, Isaac Bonga, Moritz Wagner and Isaiah Hartenstein as well as temporary absences from Schröder and Theis during the preparation had sowed doubts about the performance of the German team. The sportingly correct non-nomination of long-time captain Robin Benzing, which was clumsily communicated by the association, also dampened the mood. The big question was: will Schröder and Co. even make it to the finals in Berlin?
Sworn Unity formed
They did it – and how. Also because Herbert has managed to form a sworn unit. The athletic class of a Kleber may be missing. At the botched World Cup three years ago in China, the individual quality in the team was perhaps even greater, but the mixture of different characters didn’t fit at the time. That’s different now.
“It’s our strength that we have a lot of experienced guys. But it’s much more important that guys don’t take it personally when they’re told something,” young star Wagner described the team structure. “China was a failure. But we’ve all matured and learned from it,” Theis said recently in an interview with the “Braunschweiger Zeitung”.
Matured and euphoric, the revenge against the Spaniards should now succeed, against whom the 2017 European Championship quarterfinals ended. “We can enjoy the moment, but we still owe the Spaniards something from the EM five years ago,” said Theis. First of all, however, there was a rest day on the program on Wednesday. The intensive 40 minutes against Greece had left their mark, instead of training, the focus was on regeneration and care. A quarter of the team was already ailing before the quarterfinals.
“It’s a tournament of survivors,” said Herbert. And his team is still there. A final entry would finally catapult the euphoria into spheres never seen before in German basketball. “I think something like that can move people,” said Schröder.