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12.11.2013, 12:06
FYR Macedonia need to be at their best to advance
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ANALYSIS: Head coach, staff and players all agree that FYR Macedonia's goal is to reach the main round at the EHF EURO 2014, but everyone is wary of the huge challenges that lie ahead
 

FYR Macedonia need to be at their best to advance

Two months ahead of the EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark, FYR Macedonia's national team is slowly shaping up and getting ready for the final tournament in January.

Head coach Ivica Obrvan had invited 22 players for a training camp and a double test match against Montenegro at the beginning of November.

While they lost the first match 28:29, FYR Macedonia won the second match 26:21 - a victory that makes the Macedonian camp look confident towards the challenges they will face at the EHF EURO 2014 where they have been drawn to Group A alongside Denmark, Austria and Czech Republic.

Obrvan also used the training camp to focus on tactical and technical issues and provided some analysis of FYR Macedonia's opponents in Denmark.

He also used the matches to test some young players who have good chances to be part of the national team in the near future.

"The team missed several key players due to injuries. Considering this fact and the results that were achieved along with level of game that was shown in the two test matches, the coach and the technical staff believe that the shape of the national team is on a remarkable level," says former international Stefche Alushovski who is now the national team's sports director.

Obrvan successfully steered FYR Macedonia through the EHF EURO Qualification, securing the nation's third appearance (after 1998 and 2012) at this level.

This has, together with the good results Macedonian clubs such as the two Skopje men's sides, Metalurg and Vardar, are achieving in the VELUX EHF Champions League, made handball the No.1 sport in the country.

However, it has also raised the fans' expectations as they see the fact that many Macedonian players compete on top level.

"After coming fifth at the European Championship in Serbia in 2012 our fans have high expectations ahead of the the championship in Denmark and it is very hard to repeat or even better the result," says Alushovski.

"The fifth place is a result which increases the responsibility of everyone who works here, the people in the federation, the coach, the professional staff and the players, before this event, and I sincerely hope that we will all prepare well to present Macedonia in the best way possible at the upcoming European Championship."

EHF EURO ahead, the World Championship in sight

Metalurg's centre back Naumce Mojsovski reckons that the Macedonian team spirit will be the key.

"The main strength is our teamwork, and the main link should be our defence. If the defence manages to stop the rivals, we can benefit in attack, as we know how to convert our chances," he says.

"We do not have a lot of shooters, apart from Kiril Lazarov, so I think that the defence is the key to allow us to score easy goals in attack."

Besides some players' injury problems that are troubling Obrvan, a crucial decision is whom to trust between the posts as neither Metalurg's goalkeeper Nikola Mitrevski nor VfL Gummersbach's Borko Ristovski receive full playing time at their respective clubs.

By 10 December the official squad list comprising a maximum of 28 players has to be submitted; the final start list of 16 players taking to the court for the first match against Denmark on 12 January will be known at the latest only shortly before the throw-off.

"It is a great success that we have entered the final tournament in Denmark and continued our participation in major competitions," says Alushovski.

"The most important thing for us will be to enter the main round with some points under our belt which will grant us a good starting position before the three matches against the teams from Group B against whom we have traditionally a bad record.

"If we manage to enter the main round we are also likely to get easier opponents in the play-offs for the World Championship in Qatar and at this point this is a priority for the Macedonian national team."

Head coach Ivica Obrvan agrees with the goal Alushovski set out but is also aware that it is far from being easy: "Getting among the top three teams in our group will be difficult considering the strength of our opponents. Denmark are not only favourites in our group, but also for winning the trophy at the EHF EURO.

"Czech Republic are a consistently good team, while Austria were a pleasant surprise in the qualification. I watched their games and it is certain that we, but also they, need to do our best to clinch the berth for the next stage," he says.

"There are no easy opponents. We do not feel any euphoria, but on the other hand we are not afraid of anyone. We showed that we have the strength, character and knowledge to win against any opponent."


TEXT: Amina Idrizi / Björn Pazen / ts
 
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