The Best of 2016
January 2, 2017
Yesterday, I took a look at the highlights of 2016 regarding games and events. Today, I want to focus on the individuals, at least on the men’s side, because I follow women’s handball just enough to know a bit, but not enough to determine the best line-up of the year. But since I was on hand at the EHF EURO in Poland and the Champions League Final Four in Cologne, while watching almost every match at Rio 2016, I guess, I am entitled to form an educated opinion on the men’s side.
Although, he somewhat underperformed against France in the Olympic semi-final, the overall impression of Germany’s new goalkeeping sensation, Andreas Wolff, was just out of this world. He took the world of handball by storm, coming almost out of nowhere in January, back-stopping Germany’s “Bad Boys” to an unexpected title while “shutting the door” on Spain in the final. He eclipsed every other goalkeeper by far.
On left-wing I was having trouble making my mind up, because Uwe Gensheimer, my final choice, missed the EHF EURO due to an injury. But Spain’s goal-scoring champion, Valero Rivera, didn’t even qualify for the Olympics and didn’t impress in the Champions League either, while Manuel Strlek didn’t do too well in Rio either. So, Gensheimer, who won his first league title with Rhein-Neckar Löwen and later wasted no time to impress all PSG fans; he is number one on my list.
He’s joined by his club teammate, Mikkel Hansen. No matter if you disapprove of his 70ties hair-style or, at times, bored-looking facial expression, he’s currently the best player in the world. He makes every player around him so much better and his coach, Noka Serdarusic, is probably still asking himself why he benched him for almost the entire second half during the Champions League semi-final. Gold in Rio made his year quite a good one. Simply put – there is not better left-back in the world right now.
Yes, I know, maybe a player who makes the All-Stars 2016 team should be able to play defense, but I don’t care. Andy Schmid is just too much joy to watch. He led Rhein-Neckar Löwen to their first ever league title and combines his brilliance as a true playmaker with the scoring abilities of a shooter. But he always thinks pass-first and prefers to let his teammates shine. Clearly the best playmaker in the business.
For best right-back position my vote goes to Krzysztof Lijewski. He’s actually somebody who plays defense. He scored the game-tying goal in overtime of the Champions League Final against Veszprem, securing an epic penalty shoot-out. He also had a decent tournament in Rio, while Poland finished fourth. Yes, I know, Poland failed at the EHF EURO on home soil, but it wasn’t his fault.
A lot of Kielce or Germany in “my team”, but what can I do? Germany won the EHF EURO and a bronze medal in Rio, Kielce the Champions League title. And all of it happened in part thanks to Tobias Reichmann. The high-flying right-wing had the best year of his life and seemed almost unstoppable. Sorry, Blaz Janc, and everyone else for that matter, in 2016 Reichmann played in a class of his own.
My line-player of the year is Hendrik Pekeler. Another German, ouch. But hey, he plays offense as well as defense, and he was a key component of Germany’s rock solid defense during the EHF EURO in Poland; he won the league title with Rhein-Neckar Löwen, a medal in Rio and improved significantly on the offensive end as well.
As the best “Bench” performers, I rely on Dagur Sigurdsson and Talant Dushebajev, at least for the year 2016. Both did very well considering that their teams were seen as the underdogs by most experts before the beginning of the year. Two true handball masterminds, although with very different approaches.
Honorable mentions go to Rodrigo Corrales, Jerry Tollbring, Momir Ilic, Dean Bombac, Holger Glandorf, Blaz Janc, Julen Aguinagalde and the two coaches Christian Berge and Ljubomir Vranjes.