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27.11.2013, 17:14
Progression is the goal for transitional Russia
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ANALYSIS: After taking the last remaining spot at the EHF EURO, the need for improvement is well known if Kuleshov's men want to make an impact
 

Progression is the goal for transitional Russia

After the end of the “Maximov era”, Oleg Kuleshov made a host of changes to the national team.

The first training camp before the start of January’s EHF EURO was organised testing several new players and giving them the chance to break into the first team.

Artem Grushko, Oleg Skopincev, Anton Volkov, Roman Ostrashcenko, Aleksey Peskov and Aleksandar Bezhenar have all been given their first chance to play with the Russian squad.

“Many things have changed in the national team with the arrival of Kuleshov. The preparation for the games, the training process and the psychology of the team has changed,” says playmaker Pavel Atman.

Within four days, a variety of interesting exercises were held and the specific goal for the camp was the large amount of time that Russian coaches decided to devote to theoretical analysis.

Clear improvement

In the two friendly matches against Belarus in Minsk, Russia played with an experimental squad and came out on top in both matches, winning 29:25 (15:12) and 30:25 (16:14). 

Right after this, the Russian national team went to a four-nation tournament in Tunisia. In northern Africa, the Russians managed to win two matches and only lost one.

In the first match they narrowly overcame Brazil 26:25. In the second match they lost against the hosts Tunisia 24:28 and in the last match Russia met once more with Belarus and won 31:27. 

With this score Russia ended on the second position and the coach and technical staff were satisfied with the result, as the players showed fighting spirit and new players were tested.

“In Tunisia we missed many key players like Konstantion Igropulo, Mikhail Chipurin, Aleksey Rastvorcev, Igor Levshin and Sergey Gorobko and we used an experimental squad with new players.

“I think that the national team looks great now, but in December we will concentrate fully on the EURO,” said Atman.

Russia qualified for the final tournament in Denmark after finishing third in their qualification group behind Serbia and Austria.

Their performances were not great, but they did enough gave them the ticket for the continental championship as they were the best third ranked team in the qualification phase.

“We didn’t expect to lose to Austria on their court in the final game of qualifying and the fact that we qualified with as the best third placed team is a miracle. We have a difficult group and we will prepare seriously as the chances to achieve great results are always here,” says Atman, sentiments that Sergei Gorbok agree with.

“We are in the process of development and we hope to go step by step in Denmark though we face tough opponents already in the preliminary round. We will have to fight hard to proceed, but I believe that we have a strong team,” said the left back.

Lacking their leader

A strong team indeed, but perhaps the most serious problem that the Russian team faces before the start of the championship is the absence of former captain and one of the world’s best left wingers Timur Dibirov.

In the Russian media there are plenty of comments on this topic and this is serious loss for the national team right before the start of the continental championship. Dibirov himself gave the following statement to ehf-euro.com

“Now I have many obligations to my new team Vardar and I decided to take a break from the national team to concentrate on my club,” said the 30-year-old, who is among the top scorers in this season’s VELUX EHF Champions League.

The final list of players that will travel to Denmark will be known next month when Russian national team will gather once more.

”Russia have a very hard group and the team must fight hard in order to get in the next round,” said Dibirov, when asked of Russia’s chances of progressing to the Main Round.

”At the moment I can’t say in which shape our national team is in. When the team will gather once more before the European Championship we can see how good we stand.

“The expectations of the fans are always positive and we will try to justify them with our performance,” said Paval Atman, while his coach Oleg Kuleshov is quick to highlight the quality of opposition.

“It is our clear goal to show modern and creative handball. All teams, which made their way to Denmark, are supposed to be highly strong – and nearly all teams of our group can make it to the semi-finals,” admitted Kuleshov.


TEXT: Amina Idrizi / cor
 
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