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21.04.2015, 19:03
Zoltán Heister: Four points a must
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PREVIEW: With no points on their account after defeats to group favourites, Slovakia look to bounce back into the race for EURO 2016 in double tie against Latvia
 

Zoltán Heister: Four points a must

Having lost their first two games in Slovenia and at home to Sweden. Slovakia's upcoming double-header against Latvia are certain to suggest more about their chances of making an impact before the conclusion of their Men's EHF EURO 2016 Qualification group in June.

Coach of Slovakia, Zoltán Heister is aware that “now is the time to perform” for his men.

“If we want to stand a chance of fighting for the EURO, we need all four points from these two games. If we don’t take them, I will not be satisfied,” Heister told ehf-euro.com.

Games against Sweden and Slovenia are forgotten now, however Slovakia need to build on the positives from difficult beginning of the group campaign.

“We need to show a performance like we did against Sweden in the first half. In attack as well as in defence. Aggressive defence and fast counter attacks supported by reliable performance of our goalkeepers. There is no other way to be successful.”

Compact opponent

Latvian handball is not unknown to Slovakian handball fans. Dainis Kristopans played for Slovakian champions Tatran Prešov for almost six seasons. Zoltán Heister warns, Latvia have more quality in their squad and the whole attention cannot be turned onto the 215 cm tall right back.

“The team is not only about Kristopans. They are a compact, physical, determined side. We cannot underestimate them. Concentration is the key during the whole game. Their starting line-up plays solid handball, until they get tired, because Latvians do not have such quality on the bench. That can be our advantage.”

The teams met in EHF EURO 2014 qualifiers, when home team took the points in both encounters. Slovakia were in similar situation at that time, with zero points after first two games, but Heister does not want to compare.

“Both teams have changed since then, so we do not look back to these games. I was not with the team at that time.”

Room for experimentation

Slovakia featured in two preparatory tournaments - in late December on Christmas cup in Katowice and few days later in Yellow Cup in Winterthur. Two friendlies against Greece were an added bonus. The eight friendlies with four wins and four defeats gave Heister enough room for experiment.

“These eight games were very useful for us. We gave an opportunity to a number of players from the squad, we were able to try different scenarios directly during the games and we have worked on improvements to our game. The games with Latvia will reflect whether or not we can show what we learned from the friendly games,” admitted the coach.

Wingers missing

16 players were called into the squad, but key wings Tomás Urban (Tatran Presov) and Martin Stranovsky (HC Erlangen) for different reasons.

 “Martin Stranovsky will not be available because of family reasons. He is expecting a baby at that time. Tomás Urban will be a big blow for us. He belongs to the core of the team and possesses long term quality.

“We are worried about Oliver Rábek (Tatran Presov), who suffered an ankle injury and is a doubt at the moment,” confirmed Heister

Promising form

On the other hand, the form of Slovakia’s players at the moment is very pleasing and offers hope going into the double-header against Latvia.

“We are pleased to see Michal Holdos (Sporta Hlohovec) on the rise again, after his long term injury. Ivan Kucharík (Agro Topoľčany) plays in good form during the play-offs as well. Guys from Prešov together with Michal Volentics (ŠKP Bratislava) are showing solid performances recently.

“Our ‘foreigners’ Patrik Hruščák (HC Empor Rostock ) and Marek Mikéci (HSG Varel-Friesland ) are playing important roles in Germany, which makes us think positively ahead of the team camp,“ concluded Zoltán Heister.

The Slovakian team will meet in Bratislava on 27 April and travel to Dobele the following day. The first match in Latvia takes place on Wednesday 29 April at 19:35 hrs local time with the reverse fixture played in Hlohovec three days later at 18:00 hrs.

Slovakian squad for the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification matches against Latvia:

Goalkeepers: Teodor Paul (Grundfos Tatabánya KC), Miloš Putera (TV Grosswallstadt), Marián Žernovič (HC Sporta Hlohovec) 

Wing players: Branislav Cigáň, Martin Briatka (both HK Agro Topoľčany), Miroslav Volentics, Tomáš Kysel (both ŠKP Bratislava) 

Back court players: Csaba Szücs ml. (TSV Hannover-Burgdorf), Patrik Hruščák (HC Empor Rostock), Marek Mikéci (HSG Varel-Friesland), Radovan Pekár, Oliver Rábek (both Tatran Prešov), Ľubomír Ďuriš, Michal Holdoš (both HC Sporta Hlohovec), Ivan Kucharik (HK Agro Topoľčany) 

Line players: Michal Kopčo (Tatran Prešov), Martin Slaninka (HK Agro Topoľčany) 


TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / cor
 
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