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27.11.2015, 11:34
Poland work hard to turn EHF EURO 2016 into success
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EHF EURO INSIGHT: Head coach Michael Biegler had four years to prepare his team for the EHF EURO, as his final challenge is to turn individual strengths into one well-oiled squad
 

Poland work hard to turn EHF EURO 2016 into success

The test tournament in Gdansk at the beginning of November has proven that there is still a lot to work to for head coach Michael Biegler. While Poland first defeated Russia 27:21, they then lost 20:23 against Spain and eventually came second.

The result itself does not seem to be too bad at all, but a closer look closer reveals some issues, with only little time left to get things into gear.

The team consists of players who have amassed experience on various international courts, in the German league, the Spanish league, the VELUX EHF Champions League – a majority of Polish players cut their teeth in various clubs, under various coaches, in various game philosophies.

However, the international adventures have mostly come to an end. Currently, only 20 per cent of the wider squad taken into consideration for the EHF EURO 2016 play in foreign leagues.

Compared to the podium finishes at the World Championship 2007 and 2009, this is the exact opposite. At the World Championship 2009 there were only three national team members playing for Polish clubs.

Does that mean that Poland does not have players with enough talent to play internationally anymore? No, I would rather say that it’s a matter of the respective player’s career stages.

All the players, who played in the German Bundesliga or the Spanish Asobal, are now mature men with stable family lives and decided to come back to their home country.

Furthermore two clubs, Vive Tauron Kielce and Orlen Wisla Plock, have become constant participants of the VELUX EHF Champions League which encouraged them to play at home without losing the opportunity to compete with the best.

Two question marks hovering

Although Michael Biegler has not revealed anything yet, it is almost obvious who will play at the EHF EURO. Potential surprises may be caused by injuries and here we have got two question marks.

The first one is Mariusz Jurkiewicz who is still recovering from a knee injury. According to the team doctor his chances to be fully fit in time are 50/50.

This is why a few months ago a discussion started about the return of Grzegorz Tkaczyk. The Kielce player finished his national team career in 2012, but at the request of Biegler he decided to support the team if necessary. And what can this “necessary” be if not lack of such important player as Jurkiewicz?

Despite his long absence, Tkaczyk should not have any problems joining the boys, as the majority of players are the same as when he left, especially the back line with players as Michael Jurecki and Karol Bielecki on his left and Krzysztof Lijewski on his right side.

The second big unknown is Andrzej Rojewski, but on the right back the situation looks much better.

First of all he is very likely to be fit in time for the EHF EURO. Furthermore Poland has two strong alternatives on this position: Krzysztof Lijewski and Michal Szyba, hero of the bronze medal match at the World Championships in Qatar. Biegler, in this case, has more the problem of which players to choose.

Jurkiewicz and Rojewski were not the only players to miss the Gdansk tournament. It was missed also by Marcin Wichary, Piotr Chrapkowski, Krzysztof Lijewski, Michal Szyba, Jakub Lucak and Kamil Syprzak – all of them were injured and watched their teammates from the stands.

However, it was ensured that these just precautious measures and indeed, the majority is already back on the courts in their clubs.

Creating an entity

A much more serious problem than single player’s absence seems to be the team as a whole. Many said after the tournament that the Polish game did not to look good as lot of players were missing.

That is the truth indeed, but on the other hand, as former coach and Polish handball expert Wojciech Nowinski pointed out, so many players were not missing at all. Actually only on the right back there was no one who is expected to play at the EHF EURO. The remaining positions were at least partly covered.

The problem of the Polish national team seems that there is a lack of ideas how to make use of the great individual potential of the players.

You can observe that many actions start fluently with the ball going like clockwork, and then suddenly something spoils the party as if they run out of battery.

Nowinski underlined that the majority of goals is scored by individual actions or involving just two players. This was not only a characteristic of the recent tournament, but had been visible at past events as well.

Full batteries are not everything

Still there are at least two extremely strong points that work in favour of Poland. The first are the goalkeepers. Slawomir Szmal and Piotr Wyszomirski are able to win the match for their team even if the defence does not have its best day.

The second is the will to fight. Biegler’s boys can get  themselves off the hook even in situations when everyone thinks they are already lost. Come the EHF EURO, the support from the stands is likely to push them even more.

There are still two months left until the EHF EURO 2016 begins and actually the real preparations of the Polish team have not started yet.

From the middle of December the team is going to start being together almost constantly. Following a short Christmas break, they will play a tournament in Wroclaw and right before the EHF EURO they will take part in another tournament in Spain. On 13 January they will arrive in Krakow.

Are such intensive preparations a good thing ahead of the EHF EURO?

This remains to be seen, but Biegler has thought through the project “EHF EURO 2016” since he took over in 2012 and will do his best to put together all parts and turn them in a well-oiled machine that perhaps will go as far as the podium in January.


TEXT: Magda Pluszewska / ts
 
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