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24.10.2014, 09:00
Russia's focus is on Portugal only
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PREVIEW: As the Russia’s qualifier against Ukraine has been postponed because of the political situation, Russia start their EHF EURO 2016 qualification campaign with just one match against Portugal
 

Russia’s focus is on Portugal only

The political situation between Ukraine and Russia has changed the men’s national team’s schedule for the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification.

The EHF decided to reschedule the qualification match Russia and Ukraine and have it played at the end of April 2015, just ahead of Rounds 3 and 4 of the qualification, instead of 29 October.

This means that Russia start on the road to Poland with just one qualifier against Portugal in Porto on 2 November. Head coach Oleg Kuleshov has nominated 21 players of which he will eventually take 16 to the away match.

The squad’s core is the same than that of the Russian team that finished ninth at the EHF EURO 2014.

There had been some doubts whether top star Timur Dibirov would be on the list, but after the left wing had been part of the victorious World Championship play-offs against Lithuania it was obvious that the counter-attack and penalty specialist would be among the selected players.

"I have no problem with Timur, we spoke as adult men speak and that’s all," Kuleshov said in an interview.

Among the 21 nominated players nine come from non-Russian clubs with four of them joining the team from Skopje: Dibirov, Sergei Gorbok and Daniil Shishkarev from Vardar, Pavel Atman from Metalurg.

"We have got used to the fact that in contrast to previous years not all players arrive from Chekhovskie Medvedi anymore," says Gorbok who had played for the 'Bears' two years ago.

In the current roster there are only six players from Chekhov listed, four young guns and experienced goalkeeper Oleg Grams and top shooter Sergei Shelmenko.

"We have to cope with the situation in Russian handball. And we have selected the best regardless the clubs the players come from," head coach Oleg Kuleshov says.

"Unfortunately we only have one EHF EURO qualification match in autumn after we have been together with the full team for the World Championship play-offs in June the last time."

During the summer break Kuleshov and his national team (expect those players contracted by non-Russian clubs) went on a tour through Germany with several test matches including one against three times EHF Champions League winners THW Kiel.

"At the World Championship in Qatar in January we have to cope with a very tough group including Denmark, Poland and Germany, so we need to be prepared and I wanted to see which of our younger players can stand the pressure," Kuleshov said.

Now the EURO qualification match in Portugal will give another hint on the status quo of the Kuleshov team.

"Our problems is the lack of talented young players that nearly all of our opponents have, so we have to invest much more in the youth programme," demands Kuleshov.

In the qualification to the EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark Russians eventually were the best third ranked team and thus qualified.

This time they are supposed to be one of the two favourites together with Hungary in Group 5.

The Russian roster for the EHF EURO qualification match against Portugal:

Goalkeepers: Alexei Levshin (Permskie Medvedi), Vadim Bogdanov (Azoty Pulawy), Oleg Grams (Chehovskie Medvedi)

Line players: Alexander Pyshkin (St. Petersburg Neva), Egor Evdokimov (Motor Zaporozhye), Pawel Maximov (Permskie Medvedi)

Left backs: Sergei Gorbok (Vardar Skopje), Vitali Komogorov (Kaustik Volgograd), Alexander Tatarintsev (Gornik Zabrze), Alexander Dereven (Chehovskie Medvedi)

Right backs: Samvel Aslanian (Permskie Medvedi), Sergei Shelmenko (Chehovskie Medvedi), Konstantin Igropulo (Füchse Berlin)

Centre backs:  Pavel Atman (Metalurg Skopje), Dmitry Zhitnikov (Chehovskie Medvedi), Sergei Kudinov (Chartres Metropole)

Left wings: Timur Dibirov (Vardar Skopje), Oleg Skopintsev (Motor Zaporozhye), Roman Ostachenko (Chehovskie Medvedi)

Right wings: Dmitry Kovalev (Chehovskie Medvedi), Danil Shishkarev (Vardar Skopje)


TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts
 
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