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16.07.2014, 15:31
Slovakia count on Lukas Urban's goals
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FEATURE: The 19-year-old left back from Tatran Presov is one of the key figures to look out for at the Men's 20 EHF EURO in Austria
 

Slovakia count on Lukas Urban’s goals

Ask the Slovakian junior national team and you will get a feeling of how thin the line between success and failure sometimes is.

While the Slovakian players shed tears of joy, their Polish opponents were devastated at the end of the qualification tournament which saw Slovakia only qualifying because of the better goal difference.

"We were extremely lucky to qualify, but there is a good saying in Slovak: Those are lucky, who are ready," says Lukas Urban, arguably one of the most prolific player of the Slovakian under-20 national team that currently prepares for the European Championship in Austria.  

As they have been drawn in Group C together with Germany, Austria and Belarus, already the preliminary round will be a tough test, but coach Ivan Pompos believes, his team has what it takes to qualify.

"This group is acceptable for us. Germany are, of course, the overwhelming favourites, but we also respect the strength of Belarus.

"Austria will play at home, which might be tricky. Depends how they can cope with the pressure from the home fans."

Lukas Urban adds: "If we produce a disciplined performance and stay calm, play the handball we are capable of, we have a good chance to make it to the main round and fight for a good result."

Slovakia have already started their preparation with a training camp in Liptovský Ján.

"We focused on gaining physical strength, stamina, but we also started playing with the ball. We won two friendlies against Czech Republic.

"The purpose of the camp was to bring the team together. We still have some time to work on our game plan and get into the top form," continues the 19-year-old left back Urban who plays for Tatran Presov.

He has also already made his debut in the senior national team when he scored two goals against Italy in the 28:21 win in early January.

‘Scoring machine’ stays in Prešov

Being regarded as one of the rising stars of Slovakian handball, often being compared to Peter Kukucka and Martin Stranovsky, the 1,98 metres tall ‘Luky’ speaks about the joy of scoring goals and the honour to be awarded 2013 Handball Talent of the Year in Slovakia.

"It is a reward for all the hard work and a motivation for  the future. I have played my first game for Tatran against Kosice. I just turned 18.

"I remember I was so excited and happy to make it at such an early age. I dream of playing Champions League with Presov one day and challenge teams like PSG or Barcelona. Playing regularly in the SEHA league is the short term ambition.

"I love scoring goals. I started as a centre back, passing the ball to my teammates, so either left back or centre back, those are my two positions where I feel good.

"I still have to work on the dynamics – but as in every sport, there is always something you can improve at."

Having scored 14 goals in the qualifier against Czech Republic and 25 in the entire tournament, Urban caught the eye of some top European clubs.

And although he dreams of playing in the German Bundesliga one day, he still sees the benefit of staying in his hometown.

That is why he signed a new contract with Tatran Presov until 2020. No doubt, in age of 18, he still has the time to learn from his teammates.

Successful project

The Slovakian junior national team participated in the Slovakian league last season, a project that has reaped dividends almost immediately.

"We played good matches against strong senior Slovak teams. We have beaten some of them and learned a lot from these games," says Urban.

The team has collected 11 points in 20 Extraliga games and finished 8th in the table, leaving three teams behind.

Slovakia will start their campaign at the Men’s 20 EHF EURO with a game against Germany on 24 July, the side that won the under-18 European Championship two years ago.

Tournament information

The Men’s 20 EHF EURO takes place in the Austrian cities of Linz and Traun from 24 July to 3 August 2014. For more information visit the official website and the event’s Facebook page.

Over the next week and during the tournament eurohandball.com and the EHF EURO Facebook page will also feature regular reports, features and photo galleries.

Austria also hosted the Men’s 18 EHF EURO 2012 when the same generation of players took to the court. Back then Germany won, Sweden came second and Denmark placed third. Austria finished sixth.

The previous Men’s 20 EHF EURO took place in Turkey in 2012. Spain won ahead of Croatia and Slovenia. Austria had not qualified.

Photos: Pavol Pavelka / Slovakian Handball Federation


TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / ts
 
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