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26.10.2014, 21:39
Portugal approaches EHF EURO 2016 qualifiers with "courage and determination"
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PREVIEW: There is certainly no lack of motivation when Portugal face Hungary and Russia in the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification this week
 

Portugal approaches EHF EURO 2016 qualifiers with “courage and determination”

It looks like a difficult mission, but according to head coach Rolando Freitas and two of his players, Tiago Rocha and Alfredo Quintana, anything is possible.

Portugal face Hungary (on 29 October) and Russia (on 2 November) in Rounds 1 and 2 of the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification.

The third team is Ukraine, but Freitas straight away brushes away any suggestions about potential strengths or weaknesses of Portugal's opponents.

"There are no easy groups, especially when we are talking about teams that, like we do, had been seeded in Pot 3 at the draw," says Freitas, who has nevertheless a clear idea about the group's favourites.

"If we analyse the group, it’s obvious that because of their participations in international competitions, their amount of players that play abroad and the level of the clubs they have in the EHF Champions League, I have to say it’s Hungary."

And it is Hungary that Portugal face in their first qualifier this Wednesday.

"We will approach this and the next match with courage and determination. I think my team has quality, we have been improving and we are step by step regarded as an emerging nation in European handball.

"We have to give our best and we will try to get the maximum number of points we can.

"Russia and Hungary have a lot of qualities and not many weaknesses, so it wouldn’t be humble to say that I know them all, instead we’ll just have to take advantage of the weaknesses we find in each game."

"We have to focus on a fast game because it’s one of our best weapons, yet we cannot forget about the game's most important part, the defence.

"If we don’t defend well, we won’t be able to make use of counter attacks and speed in our offence," says Freitas, who is not only for competitive reasons, but also because of pure love for the sport, looking very much forward for the qualification to start.

"This sport is the one that we can truly compare to a video game, when you press a button and the hero starts flying.

"Nowadays everything changes so quick! You can be losing by six but reduce the margin to one in two or three minutes. That's how good the sport is."

"Portugal need this"

One of Portugal’s most experienced and successful players at the moment, Tiago Rocha who plys his trade at Orlen Wisla Plock in Poland, is as eager as his coach.

"We are feeling good, there is a lot of motivation to get something out of this qualification because we have been wanting this for too long now, so everyone is focused," he says.

"Portugal really need this, but we have to fight against all those odds, that are against us."

Not quite a rookie anymore, but very fresh to the team is Cuba-born goalkeeper Alfredo Quintana who only recently received Portuguese citizenship.

"It already feels like I’ve been playing with these lads for a while now. It’s incredible to be here and help the team to get good results, trying to the successfully qualify for the EURO,” the 26-year-old says.


TEXT: Carlos Santos / ts
 
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