They needed extra time to do it, but Germany advanced to their first final in the European Championships since 2004. Kai Häfner scored three crucial goals in extra time to improve Germany's Olympic chances.
The German national handball team continued their fairytale ride in the European Championships on Friday, beating Norway 34-33 after extra time to win the semifinal.
Kai Häfner scored the winning goal for Germany in the final minute of extra time to lift his Germany team to their first final since 2004. Tobias Reichmann was the main star of the match, scoring 10 goals from open play and 17 goals in total.
Kai Häfner came up big for Germany in extra time, including scoring the winning goal with just seconds left.
"That was a real thriller," head coach Dagur Sigurdsson told ZDF. I knew it was going to go into extra time, I wrote it on my tactics board.
"One team had to lose today, and we had luck on our side."
Germany led Norway at halftime 14-13, profiting from a man advantage for two minutes on four occasions as Norway picked up four penalties. Norway stormed back after the half, eventually taking a two-goal lead, but could not distance themselves from the Germans. Rune Dahmke, who scored just one other goal in the match, found the late equalizer for Germany to force extra time.
Germany took control just before the first half of extra time, Häfner scoring two quick goals to give Germany the 30-29 lead. Norway could not take the lead thereafter, setting up Häfner to get the match winner in the final minute.
"We tried to kill the time. Somehow I had the ball, and I only tried to score," Häfner said after the match. "When the team needs me, I'll give everything, and we will see what comes of it."
Olympics within reach
The victory goes a long way towards qualifications for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Another win in the final would qualify Germany outright for the Summer Games, while a second-place finish would place them in the Olympic Qualification Tournament in April. Norway could reach that qualification tournament as well if they win the third-place match.
Germany now awaits the winner of the second semifinal between Spain and Croatia. The final will take place on Sunday at Tauron Arena in Krakow.
"Everyone here wants to be European championships, everyone believes in themselves," said goalkeeper Andreas Wolff. "It doesn't matter who the opponent is. We are going to win anyway."