Icelandic handball players are, outwardly, no longer what they once were. There were times when you could have booked the national team for a few episodes of HBO's Vikings series. Without makeup. Tattoos all over the body, huge bullheads and mighty beards: that's how you recognized an Icelandic handball player. Not to mention their wonderful names. Sigfus Sigurdsson. Olafur Stefansson. Björgvin Gustavsson. In comparison, some of the team that has sent the sport-crazy country from the north to this World Cup, looked like school boys. Gisli Porgeir Kristjansson, the youngest member of the team, was born in July 1999.

But just before that had warned the national coach, in front of a fast, young team, which will be unpleasant and unruly. You have to keep reminding yourself of the Icelandic sport miracle: On average, only 3.4 people live on one square kilometer. In Brandenburg, not a multi-ethnic state, there are 84. But whether in football or in handball: Iceland produces sporting talent as almost no other country in Europe.

24: 19 opening win

The Icelanders proved this against Germany again: In the sold-out Köln-Arena, it took a serious, passionate performance of the German national team until the first victory in the World Cup main round was perfect. "If we had approached with the attitude: Oh, we beat this little country somehow, it would be guaranteed backfired," said national coach Christian Prokop after the 24:19 (14:10) -success, his team leading the table first main round group ahead of France. Although Croatia can overtake on Sunday. But winning the prelude after the move to Cologne was an important goal.

Long before the kick-off, the Cologne myth was reissued: "If Wimbledon Boris Becker's living room, Cologne is the handball national team," said former international Christian Schwarzer, who was in 2007 to the World Cup team, which won the title in Cologne. 19,250 visitors hooted to this sentence and gave a first real audio sample. The World Champions of 1978 were briefly on the floor. They came for Joachim Deckarm, who celebrated his 65th birthday. The former world-class player, who injured his head shortly after the World Cup victory in a European Cup game, has been visited and looked after by his old teammates for 40 years. During the half-time break, Cologne serenaded him.

In general, the atmosphere: The 13,500 Berliners who came in the preliminary round per match were already loud, but Cologne definitely made more noise. Defensive specialist Finn Lemke responded to the question of whether he had just experienced the best backdrop of his career, just with a nod. "I'll tell my children about that," said Paul Drux. And coach Prokop, who came out of the grin after the victory, even spoke of the "best time of my life sportlich".

Steffen Fäth started strong

A good start made it easy for the Germans to take the crowd with them. The defense had stood in the preliminary round, but in attack the Germans have so far in each game easy goals. Against Iceland were five of the first six attacks in the gate, Steffen Fäth scored after only seven minutes 5: 2, a 105 km / h hammer into the right angle. The Germans, now that they really count, depend on such fäth moments.

The Icelandic riders quickly came back in double German defeat: Amor Thor Gunnarson, Aron Palmarsson, again Gunnarson, again Palmarsson, a former Kieler: Now the Icelanders led 6: 5 and provided for a very rare moment of silence. "We let ourselves be pushed in too far behind," said the coach later. He took his first break, reversing his defense and switching from a 6-0 to a 5-1 formation, and was right.