Germany’s Lukas Kampa (2ndR) spikes the ball against Cameroon’s Christian Arthur Voukeng Mbativou (lower L) and Cameroon’s Elie Badawe Djakode (upper L) during the World Volleyball Championship Pool D match between Germany and Cameroon at the Arena Stozice in Ljubljana on August 28, 2022. (Photo by Jure Makovec / AFP)

Of all things. Of all things, the German volleyball players must have thought on Wednesday evening when it was clear that they would have to face the team from Slovenia again in the round of 16 of the World Cup. Just a few days ago, they suffered a crushing 0:3 defeat against the tournament hosts and were only able to qualify for the next round with the help of the competition. It’s going there this Saturday – again against Slovenia.

And so it was quite understandable that the German winger Ruben Schott tried to take the whole thing with humor. “It’s actually quite funny,” he said. “We thought we were out because we played such a bad game – but now we’re in.”

Now Germany had caught a very difficult group with Olympic champions France, one of the best teams in the world, and the hosts. But even if the team mobilizes all their strength and finds new courage, it will still be difficult to hold their own against Slovenia at the next attempt. Already at the last match, the Germans seemed intimidated by the 12,000 Slovenian World Cup fans who created a great atmosphere in the hall. BR Volleys Managing Director Kaweh Niroomand rightly emphasized: “Slovenia is an incredibly closed unit, they have been playing together in this formation for years.”

In fact, the team’s appearance at the World Cup also reveals fundamental structural problems. Especially in the key positions of passing and diagonal attack, there is a lack of alternatives, of young players who are slowly being introduced and who are preparing for the inevitable generational change. Instead, the association always relies on the return of superstar Georg Grozer (37), who is currently on a break, and Lukas Kampa (35), who was repeatedly absent due to injury. Niroomand also complains: “By the time a player is 29 or 30 at the latest, you have to think about how to replace him.”

If the youth problem is to be solved in the long term, then the new national coach Michal Winiarski and the cooperation between the association and the clubs will be decisive. Because only with a broad base can the national team survive against the international top.