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21.10.2013, 09:55
Portugal face an (almost) impossible mission
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MATCH PREVIEW: Having been drawn in a group with Montenegro, Czech Republic and Poland, the road to the Women's EHF EURO 2014 in far from easy for Portugal. However, they showed in the past they can, in the right moment, turn almost any match around
 

Portugal face an (almost) impossible mission

Having been drawn together with defending champions, Montenegro, as well as Poland and Czech Republic to Group 3, Portugal have a very difficult task ahead if they want to qualify for the Women's EHF EURO 2014 in Hungary and Croatia.

"This group is definitely one of the most difficult, at least for the position from where we come from, the pot four," said Joao Florencio, the women's national team coach.

"Montenegro are European champions and were runners-up ar the Olympics, Czech Republic came 12th at the previous EHF EURO and Poland eliminated Sweden (in the European play-offs for the World Championship 2013)," added the coach.

However, his team's objective remains to do the best possible and never go down without a decent performance.

Florencio thinks everything is possible if their opening match against Czech Republic (23 October 18:00 hrs. local time) goes according to plan.

"If we get the necessary momentum from the first match, even if we concede a defeat, we can surprise the other teams. We need the will that can compensate the competitive difference between these countries."

Four of the Portuguese squad members are playing abroad, bringing more experience to the team.

"It’s great to have players playing in other countries because their level is much higher than ours. They dedicate their lives to the sport there, something that we can’t do in Portugal because there is no professionalisation” continued the coach.

Nonetheless, there are some disadvantages as these players can’t train with the national team as often as the ones playing in the domestic league.

Florencio: "I have to create a team that plays consistently and with Telma (Amado) and Vera (Lopes) arriving a day before our departure, I’m almost obliged to create a team without them."

Ana Seabra, Renata Tavares and Vera Lopes are the most experienced in the squad, giving experience to a very young team, since they are the only players older than 30 years of age.

Ana, who is already a part of Portuguese handball history as one of the best ever in the women’s game, received several awards during her career, including the MVP in the two previous seasons of the domestic league.

"The young players look up to us, they respect us for our years playing the game," she said. Florencio agrees: "They are role models to the other women, they represent the best in Portuguese handball."

Believing in the unbelievable

Will was the decisive factor in the first and to date only successful Portuguese qualification campaign when the team made it to the EHF EURO 2008 in FYR Macedonia.

They beat Poland in the play-offs, turning around a 28:37 loss in the first match with a 35:24 win in the second leg.

Ana Seabra was part of both matches, and today, as the captain of the squad she admits she remembers these games very well.

"I remember being in the press conference after the loss in Poland and saying that we still had a chance to go through, and it happened. They (Poland) were too relaxed in Portugal, so when they realised we were up by 11, they couldn’t believe it."

However, the left wing considers her team still as the 'unknown underdogs' in this qualification group. A fact that might, or might not, work in Portugal's favour. 

"On the one hand, they don’t know us well and don’t know how we normally play, however, we practically haven’t been in any final phases of any major international competition."


TEXT: Carlos Santos / ts
 
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