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Unified Korean team loses to Germany in handball world championship debut

All Headlines 04:38 January 11, 2019

BERLIN, Jan. 10 (Yonhap) -- The unified Korean men's handball team fell to Germany 30-19 in its historic world championship debut on Thursday.

Korea tried to put up a fight but proved no match against the world No. 1 Germany at the International Handball Federation (IHF) World Men's Handball Championship at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin.

This is the first international appearance by a joint Korean handball team, men's or women's.

Korea is in Group A with Germany, Russia (world No. 4), France (No. 5), Serbia (No. 6) and Brazil (No. 27).

South Korea is No. 19, and North Korea isn't ranked.

The two Koreas agreed to combined their men's handball teams at a meeting of sports administrators on Nov. 2 last year. The unified team of 16 South Koreans and four North Koreans, coached by South Korea's Cho Young-shin, began training together in Berlin on Dec. 22.

In this EPA photo, Jo Tae-hun of Korea (C) attempts a shot against Germany during their Group A match at the International Handball Federation World Men's Handball Championship at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin on Jan. 10, 2019. (Yonhap)

Korea managed to score the first goal of the game, with captain Jung Su-young putting his team on the board. But Korea never led again the rest of the match against a bigger, faster and stronger opponent, while committing seven turnovers in a mostly jittery first half.

Korea also lost a man when Kim Dong-myung was ejected with a foul on Steffen Fath when Germany was leading 7-3.

Korea made it 8-6 at about midway point in the opening half, but Germany scored three straight goals to pull away. The home team closed out the first half on a 9-4 run for a 17-10 advantage.

Germany picked up where it left off to begin the second half, as it scored four unanswered goals against the helpless Korean defense. After about 13 minutes into the second half, Germany opened up a 26-12 lead.

In this AFP photo, Kang Jeon-gu of Korea (R) takes a shot past Finn Lemke of Germany during their Group A match at the International Handball Federation World Men's Handball Championship at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin on Jan. 10, 2019. (Yonhap)

Korea never managed to cut the deficit to a single digit, despite some strong last-minute push by 19-year-old Kang Tan.

Kang and Jang Dong-hyun tied for the team high with four goals apiece. Uwe Gensheimer led the balanced German attack with seven goals.

The rosters for the 24-team tournament are set at 16 players each, but the IHF allowed the pan-Korean team to add four players and compete with an expanded roster.

GERMANY HANDBALL MEN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2019

Of the four North Koreans, Ri Kyong-song and Ri Song-jin saw limited action on Thursday.

Germany and Denmark are co-hosts of the tournament, which wraps up on Jan. 27.

After round-robin action, the top three teams from each of the four groups will advance to the main round. Those 12 teams will then be divided into two groups of six, and the top two from each will move on to the semifinals.

South Korea failed to qualify for the past two world championships in 2015 and 2017, and finished 21st in 2013.

In this DPA photo, Members of the joint Korean men's handball team high-five each other before the start of their Group A match against Germany at the International Handball Federation World Men's Handball Championship at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin on Jan. 10, 2019. (Yonhap)

Korea will next face Russia at the same venue on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. local time, or 11:30 p.m. in Seoul.

In Thursday's pre-game ceremony, Korea marched in behind the Korea Unification Flag, which features the Korean Peninsula in blue against a white background. The players were cheered on by dozens of supporters in T-shirts showing the same image.

Also in the opening, the traditional Korean folk song "Arirang" was played in place of the national anthem by either Korea.

President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who's from Germany, attended the opening match. They were joined by Chey Tae-won, head of the Korea Handball Federation, and Lee Kee-heung, president of the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee.

In this Reuters photo, President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier (2nd from L, middle row) stands next to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach during the Group A match between Korea and Germany at the International Handball Federation World Men's Handball Championship at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin on Jan. 10, 2019. Directly below Steinmeier is Chey Tae-won, head of the Korea Handball Federation, and to Chey's right is Lee Kee-heung, president of the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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