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12.11.2012, 10:03
An expert's view on the EHF EURO
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Grit Jurack, three-times winner of the Women's EHF Champions League, gives her predictions for the championship in Serbia
 

An expert’s view on the EHF EURO

Between 1994 and 2010 Grit Jurack participated at six Women's European Championships. She led the German team to the EHF EURO semi-finals in 2006 in Sweden and 2008 in FYR Macedonia – but in the end Jurack and her team had to settle for fourth on both occasions.

After 306 caps and 1581 goals the 34-year-old left-handed shooter resigned from handball in October 2012, as a persisting shoulder injury put an end to her career.

But for the European Championship in Serbia, the mother of a two-year-old son, Lukas, and three-times winner of the Women’s EHF Champions League with Danish side Viborg HK, returns to be the tournament's expert for the European Handball Federation.

Less than four weeks ahead of the throw-off on 4 December, Jurack analyses the four EHF EURO 2012 preliminary round groups and gives her opinion about her favourites and medal candidates.

During the championship Grit Jurack, who is also the EHF's expert for the Women's Champions League, will continue commenting on the course of the event, giving her expert's at various stages of the EHF EURO in Serbia. 

"I am looking forward to Serbia's performance"

"2012 has already been extremely hard for the players as it included club competitions, the EHF Champions League, the Olympic qualification, the Olympic Games and now the EHF EURO 2012.

"Those teams that can count on the best-equipped squads on a high performing level will be the medallists in the end.

"For example Norway and Russia have such a huge repertoire of top class players whom their coaches can rotate without losing quality on the field.

"The role of the coaches will be highly important. They have to find the balance between endurance and rest – and those coaches with the higher number of alternatives have easier decisions to take.

"I am really looking forward to the Serbian performance on home turf. Boosted by their spectators they can really go all the way, if they stand the pressure of hosting such an event.

"So in my opinion the 2012 EHF EURO champion will either come from Group A with Norway and Serbia or from Group D with Russia, Romania and Montenegro.

"In contrast to former post-Olympic EHF EURO events, this time it is not a tournament of transition, as the number of top players who resigned after London 2012 is not that high."

 

 

 

 


Group A with Norway, Ukraine, Serbia, Czech Republic: "Norway are the favourite, but also Serbia can go all the way"

"Norway are my clear favourite for winning this group and also one of my major favourites for the gold medal.

"Every year they are pulling new top players from their magician’s hat – players, who can decide even Olympic finals or other top matches on their own like Linn Sulland in Herning 2010 (at the EHF EURO) or London 2012 for example.

"The only problem the Norwegians have is the start of a tournament. They need some time to find the best way of playing, but once they have started their engines they are nearly unstoppable.

"Serbia will profit from full arenas, frenetic spectators and the hopes to fly on the wings like the men’s team did in January. We often competed against the Serbians and they now have some international top players like Andrea Lekic in their squad.

"If they are able to stand the pressure and if they have enough power – as their bench is not full of top alternatives compared to other participants – they can go all the way. Aside, this EHF EURO is a perfect preparation and showcase for the 2013 World Championship for them.

"Ukraine and Czech Republic will fight – mostly in their direct duel – for the third rank and the ticket to the Main Round. I had my final international match against the Czech team and I was surprised of their huge potential.

"The major problem is that nearly all players participate in their first ever major international tournament – so we have to see how they cope with this situation.

"I really feel sad and bad when I think about the Ukraine – not because of their team or their players.

"It was my last ever EHF EURO match (in 2010) when we were thrashed by them in Larvik by 23:33 and did not reach the Main Round for the first time in German handball history.

"The current Ukraine team still count on tall shooters like Anastasija Pidpalova – but like the Czech RepublicI do not expect them to be able to beat Serbia or Norway."

Group B with Sweden, France, Denmark, FYR Macedonia: "Between world class and rock bottom"

"This group is like a lucky dip bag, you don't know which team will come out first and which will be last. All of them can play a perfect tournament, but all teams also can fail very early.

"France are my personal favourite in this group, and they are the perfect example to be between world class and rock bottom. They might even win the gold medal, but maybe the Main Round will be their final destination.

"Sweden are also such a roller-coaster-team. They played a brilliant EHF EURO 2010 winning the silver medal, but then failed completely at the 2012 Olympic Games.

"Denmark have a rejuvenated team, so you do not know how they - and also the Swedes - can cope with the fact that FYR Macedonia will be backed by hundreds or thousands of absolute frenetic and loud spectators and if they can keep their nerves under control.

"The opening match of Sweden against Denmark will be pathbreaking for both of them, but also France will get a taste of the Macedonian mentality in their first match.

"FYR Macedonia are a typical powerful Balkan team full of fighting spirit. They do not have one big star, but their team is well-balanced, and the support of their spectators will grant them wings.

"But in my opinion they are not able to rank ahead of France – but maybe ahead of Sweden or Denmark."

Group C with Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Spain: "All four can go on or go home"

"This is the toughest of all predictions for me, not because Germany are in this group, but as this group is the most level one.

"It is really tough to predict the outcome, as all four teams can go on or go home after three matches. But by looking already on the Main Round, it is clear that the teams of Group C only have a chance against their opponents from Group D if they get the optimum of points – as I expect all candidates for the Main Round from Group D much stronger than those from Group C.

"For me, Spain is in a slightly favourite role, as all teams have problems to cope with their unorthodox style of playing and especially defending.

"They were boosted by the Olympic bronze medal and their squad is the same like in London, where they beat Croatia in the quarter-final.

"Croatia have improved in previous years, nearly all their players come from EHF Champions League clubs like Podravka or Krim, so they can count on a lot of international experience.

"Mainly, it will be decisive if their top shooter Andrea Penezic will be fit until the EHF EURO, as without her the chances to proceed to the Main Round will get slimmer.

"The Hungarian team consists almost only of players from Györ and FTC – and their results in the EHF Champions League speak for themselves.

"But interesting though, despite this experienced squad, Hungary did not win any medals in the previous years, they always failed earlier than expected.

"The German team has a high potential and has beaten Hungary and Croatia in most of the past encounters, but the final results from their recent tournaments were anything but positive.

"I hope that Germany and Croatia will fight for the second rank, but in case their nerves are not strong enough, Germany can even fail in this group."

Group D with Romania, Montenegro, Russia, Iceland: "Maybe Romania's time has come"

"I am sorry for Iceland, but the team unfortunately will finish without a point in this group, even if the Nordic team showed a strong performance at the 2011 World Championship by beating Germany and reaching the last 16.

"Russia, Romania and Montenegro will definitely proceed to the Main Round – and maybe all equal in points. My prediction: Russia beat Romania, Romania beat Montenegro and Montenegro will beat Russia, and all of them beat Iceland.

"The Russians have a never ending supply of top players in all age categories – and they will start in Serbia with a new team, which does not mean anything bad, as the 'older' squad was not successful in London.

"Coach Vitaly Krokhin has the biggest number of alternatives of all coaches, maybe only comparable with Norway. It would not be a surprise, if the Russians reached their first ever EHF EURO final since 2006.

"Montenegro nearly have the same squad as in London, except Maja Savic and Bojana Popovic. And all those young Montenegrin players have just shown in the EHF Champions League with Budocnost what they are capable of doing. 

"Although my former teammate Bojana Popovic is on the 28-player official squad list, I do not except her to be on the field.

"If yes, the chances of her team in her country of birth would already be boosted. Regardless of Popovic there is no question that Montenegro will reach the Main Round.

"Romania also can go very far, as maybe the girls need a coach like Gheorghe Tadici to unveil their whole opportunities.

"They are on my list for the semi-final, like they did in 2010, when they went on to win the bronze medal. And maybe even the time has come for them to be on top of the podium."


TEXT: Grit Jurack / ts
 
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