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28.10.2012, 13:38
Aspiring Ukraine ready for EHF EURO 2014 qualification
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'We can surprise every opponent' says team captain Brazhnyk.
 

Aspiring Ukraine ready for EHF EURO 2014 qualification

Following a disappointing performance in the qualification for the 2013 World Championship, during which Ukraine failed to reach the Play-Off stage, the men's national team was prone to some changes.

First of all, a new head coach was introduced. Andrey Portnoy, who led Dinamo Poltova to their first national championship title in the 2011/12 season, now coaches the team.

With Portnoy in control, Ukraine easily prevailed in the first phase of the EHF EURO 2014 qualification, holding the upper hand on Finland, Luxemburg and Cyprus.

However, Portnoy's men are well aware that the real test awaits now, in the qualification's second  phase, in which Ukraine first meet Sweden on 1 November and then Poland on 4 November.

The hope is to end up among the top two teams in Group 5 – the fourth squad in the Group are the Netherlands – as that would secure a place at the final tournament in Denmark in January 2014.

“It is not a secret that we got a difficult group. (But) with all respect to our rivals, we want to qualify for the European championship,” said head coach Portnoy.

“The favourite in our group are Sweden. I didn't find a weak point in this team. They are a perfectly organised collective with all players possessing high level technical skills.

“We expect danger from each rival, but the match against Poland in Zaporozhye will give many answers with regards to our objective. 

Before the start of any tournament all chances are equal. So if we stay reliable and disciplines in defence, that can become a guarantee for our success.”

Defying the statistics

Ukraine also have to defy the stats. Head-to-head counts against both Sweden and Poland are negative. They lost all three official matches against the Scandinavians and three from four against Poland.

A setback has furthermore been the injury of right back Sergey Onufriyenko, who plays club handball for VELUX EHF Champions League participant Dinamo Minsk, and who could not be selected for the first two qualifiers due to an injury of his left throwing hand.

While this is considered a major loss, several players, including playmaker Mikhail Tsap from Motor Zaporozhye, have joined the team again in recent months.

“Tsap adds some serious strength to our team. He showed that at a tournament in Romania in April and during the recent qualification in Cyprus. Besides, he is perfect whenever we play a 5-1-defence,” said first assistant coach Alexandr Kubrachenko.

One of the main reasons for the 32-year-old to return was the new man on the bench.

“I like style of work of the new head coach. Andrey Portnoy uses modern tendencies of handball. Under his management the team began to play more quickly.

“He always intends to reach a maximum. Now we have general goal – to get desired ticket to Denmark,” said Tsap.

“We clearly understand that we will be competing against very strong rivals. Sweden won silver at the 2012 Olympic Games.

“They try to lead up all attacks to the logic end and play a powerful game. We know about their force, but I doubt that our rivals know about our force too much. This fact can help us to realise our aim.”

Ready to surprise

Goalkeeper Vadym Brazhnyk, who has been voted 2012 Best Player in the Ukrainian championship, is looking forward to the positive impact Tsap’s return is expected to have on the team.

“With this new impulse we will try to take away some points in the next two games. Recently Sweden turned into an elite team with mobile defending and an unparalleled transition from defence to attack.

Poland have strong backs and playmakers. Also I am impressed by my goalkeeper colleague Sławomir Szmal. It will be more difficult in the away match (against Sweden), but with home support we can surprise any opponent», said 37-year-old team captain Brazhnyk.



For more EHF EURO 2014 news go to www.ehf-euro.com

Also join us on www.facebook.com/EHFEUROMen


Ukraine's team for the qualification matches against Sweden and Poland:

Goalkeepers: Vadym Brazhnyk (Dinamo Poltava), Gennadiy Komok (ZTR), Igor Chupryna (Portovik);

Players: Artem Yevdokymov, Artem Vyshnevskyy, Alexandr Pedan, Alexandr Tyukin, Oleg Kumogorodskyy, Andrey Vasyuk (all – Dinamo Poltava), Sergey Burka, Evgeniy Zhuk, Mikhail Tsap (all – Motor), Alexey Ganchev, Mikhail Krivchikov (both – ZTR), Yuriy Mankovskyy, Alexandr Yuzhbabenko, Artem Kozakevych (all – Portovik), Vladyslav Ostroushko, Nikolay Stetsura, Alexandr Shevelev (all – Dinamo Minsk, Belarus).


TEXT: Igor Grachov / ts
 
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