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07.10.2014, 09:02
EHF EURO 2014 quartet test their form in Umag
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PREVIEW: Croatia, Serbia, Poland and Germany start their last stage of preparation for the EHF EURO 2014 on the Adriatic Coast.
 

EHF EURO 2014 quartet test their form in Umag

In exactly two months, on 7 December, the starting whistle for the Women’s EHF EURO 2014 in Hungary and Croatia will be blown. And this week – mainly over the upcoming weekend – all 16 EURO participants are on court to start their final steps of their preparation campaign for the season’s pinnacle event.

One highlight of these test matches and tournaments is the Croatia Cup in Umag on the Adriatic Coast, where EHF EURO host Croatia will face Serbia, Poland and Germany in matches taking place from Thursday to Saturday.

For all four coaches and teams this event will be one of the last chances to test new options for the EURO, though all four squads have changed very little since the World Championship 2013 and EHF EURO qualification.

Croatia eager for international matches

The Croats are particularly eager for the test, as they have had few international matches over the last 15 months. The team, under head coach Vladimir Canjuga, lost their qualification matches for the World Championship 2013 against France and, as host and therefore automatic participants, did not have to play the EURO qualification.

“The Croatia Cup is very important in finding our form for the EHF EURO,” says Canjuga. His squad for the Croatia Cup consists of seven Lokomotiva Zagreb players, but a number of his stars are coming from abroad and will meet their national team colleagues for the first time this season.

Croatia’s second match on Friday against Germany will be a special preview, as the sides will face each other again in Varazdin in Group D of the EHF EURO preliminary round.

“You can get video tapes and DVD’s from all countries within an hour, so no secrets will be unveiled in this test match,” says Danish-born German head coach Heine Jensen.

Jensen can count on three key players, all of whom missed the World Championship 2013 and most of the EURO qualification: team captain Isabell Klein, goalkeeper Katja Schülke (both back from maternity leave) and playmaker Kerstin Wohlbold (back after a nine-month injury break due to a rupture of the cruciate ligament).

Croatia and Germany will also face the Netherlands and Sweden in their preliminary round Group D in Varazdin.

Serbians come head to head with club teammates

Serbia will have much higher hurdles to overcome in December – the World Championship 2013 runners-ups will face defending EURO champions Montenegro, France and Slovakia in Group A.

Despite the retirement of experienced left back, Jelena Eric, from international handball, head coach Sasa Boskovic can count on a strong squad in Umag. Only eight of the 20 nominated players are currently contracted by Serbian clubs, which means his players will face a number of club teammates at the Croatia Cup.

Vardar star and World Handball Player of the Year, Andrea Lekic, will play against Anja Althaus (Germany) and Andrea Penezic (Croatia), whilst Dragana Cvijic will face her Buducnost teammates Clara Woltering (Germany), Kinga Byzdra (Poland) and Marta Zderic (Croatia).

German World Championship 2013 top scorer Susann Müller (now Györ) will also see some well-known faces from her club in Umag, such as goalkeeper Jelena Grubisic and wing Vesna Milanovic Litre, both representatives of Croatia.

But these facts are of little consequence to the EHF EURO preparation.

“This tournament will be the last chance for those players who are not in the core squads to jump on the EURO train,” Heine Jensen speaks for all four coaches. Fans can therefore count on the Croatia Cup being a hint as to which players from all four teams will be seen in Hungary and Croatia come December.

The Poland team, under Danish born coach Kim Rasmussen, booked their EURO ticket in the closing minutes of their final qualification match in the Czech Republic. Unsatisfied with this performance, the team want to show their real face at the Croatia Cup and EHF EURO 2014 – the face they showed at the World Championship 2013 in Serbia, where they made it to the semi-final.

“We need to get back into competition mode,” said Rasmussen before the Croatia Cup. In contrast to previous years, only five of his players are contracted abroad, so he can count on well-rehearsed blocks from Gdynia and EHF Champions League participant Lublin.

At the EHF EURO Poland will face host Hungary, Russia and Spain in preliminary round Group A.

Croatia Cup schedule:

Thursday, 9 October:
17:00 Germany vs. Serbia
19:00 Croatia vs. Poland

Friday, 10 October:
17:00: Poland vs. Serbia
19:00: Croatia vs. Germany

Saturday, 11 October:
14:00: Germany vs. Poland
16:00: Croatia vs. Serbia

Croatia Cup squads:

Croatia:
Ivana Jelcic, Tea Grubisic, Aneta Benko, Katarina Jezic, Sonja Basic, Maja Koznjak, Lidija Horvat (all Lokomotiva Zagreb), Maja Zebic, Andrea Penezic (both Vardar), Jelena Grubisic, Vesna Milanovic Litre (both Györ), Marta Zderic (Buducnost), Anita Gace (Dinamo-Sinara), Dragica Dzono, Kristina Elez, Miranda Tatari (all Podravka), Camila Micijevic (Zamet), Zana Maric (Bietigheim).

Serbia:
Katarina Tomasevic (FTC), Ana Kacarevic (Naisa), Jelena Nisavic, Jovana Risovic, Sanja Radosavljevic, Andela Janjusevic (all Radnicki), Dragana Cvijic (Buducnost), Sanja Rajovic (Lokomotiva Zagreb), Marija Lojpur (Szeged), Ivana Milosevic (Radnicki), Katarina Krpez (Erd), Sanja Damnjanovic (Viborg), Jelena Trifunovic (Podravka), Jovana Stoiljkovic (HAC Handball), Biljana Bandelier (Nice), Andrea Lekic (Vardar), Kristina Liscevic (Metz), Dijana Radojevic (Jagodina), Jelena Popovic (Nantes), Jelena Zivkovic (Podravka).

Poland:
Patrycja Kulwinska, Iwona Malgorzata Niedzwiedz,  Katarzyna Janiszewska, Malgorzata Gapska, Aleksandra Zych (all Vistal Gdynia), Joanna Drabik, Agnieszka Kocela, Marta Gega (all MKS Lublin), Izabela Prudzienica (Energa AZS Koszalin), Monika Stachowska (Pogon Baltica Szczecin), Kinga Grzyb (EKS Start Elblag), Monika Migala (KPR Ruch Chorzow), Karolina Siodmiak (OS AZS Gdansk), Karolina Kudlacz (HC Leipzig), Anna Wysokinska (SG BBM Bietigheim), Alina Wojtas (Larvik HK), Kinga Byzdra (Buducnost), Karolina Zalewska Gardoni (Issy Paris Hand).

Germany:
Clara Woltering (Buducnost), Katja Schülke, Anne Müller (both HC Leipzig), Marlene Zapf, Anna Loerper, Ewgenija Minevskaja (all TuS Metzingen), Svenja Huber, Kerstin Wohlbold, Nadja Nadgornaja (all Thüringer HC), Susann Müller (Györi Audi ETO KC), Isabell Klein (Buxtehuder SV), Kim Naidzinavicius (TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen - Werkselfen), Laura Steinbach (FTC), Natalie Augsburg (Spreefüxxe Berlin), Angie Birgit Geschke (VfL Oldenburg), Anja Althaus (Vardar).


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg
 
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