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12.01.2016, 16:31
Poland's hopes and expectations rest on Michal Jurecki's shoulders
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EHF EURO COUNTDOWN #14: The pressure on the hosts is huge at the EHF EURO 2016, but while the players try and neglect all expectations in public, it is evident that they all dream of a podium finish
 

Poland's hopes and expectations rest on Michal Jurecki's shoulders

The Polish national team is back in Poland after it finished its testing phase for their home EHF EURO 2016 with a 27:23 win against Brazil, a 28:26 against Sweden and a 12:26 loss to Spain at a tournament in Irun.

However, it was evident in the last game that no one wanted to risk any injuries so shortly ahead of the final tournament.

Taken this into account and the previous tournaments in Wroclaw and Gdansk, there are promising signs for Poland as the team improved in its defence, fast breaks and in its wing play.

The team’s strength

The team's biggest asset is definitely its strong 6-0 defence, supported by a strong goalkeeper duo.

Since head Michael Biegler took over the Polish national team in 2012 he has repeatedly underlined that this is the core he wants to build the team around.

And indeed it will be difficult for any opponent to find holes in the team’s armour. No wonder, if you see giants such as Piotr Grabarczyk and the Jurecki brothers on the line.

“We have been working on our defence constantly over the past years and while we introduced some small changes, the core has remained unchanged. And this is what turns this part into such a big advantage for us,” says Kamil Syprzak.

The line player adds that Poland have some of the best goalkeepers in Europe. Right now undisputed between the posts are Slawomir Szmal and Piotr Wyszomirski, but it is possible that Biegler will count on all three goalkeepers, including Plock’s Marcin Wichary.

The team’s weakness

It has been a true roller coaster ride for Poland on the centre back position. When Mariusz Jurkiewicz sustained a knee injury in summer, everyone thought he would be back in time for the EHF EURO.

When his rehabilitation did not proceed as quickly as thought, Grzegorz Tkaczyk, who had already retired from the national team, came back to help the team – but a shoulder injury ruled him out as well.

With Bartlomiej Jaszka and Tomasz Rosinski also not being available, Biegler decided to turn Michal Jurecki into a basic playmaker.

The back court player has already played on many positions including the centre, but still he likes to score. “Sometimes when he gets the ball it is hard for him to give it away,” says Michal Szyba with a smile.

The team’s star

The EHF EURO will be a huge test for Michal Jurecki. He must shoulder the weight of masterminding the game and becoming the team’s leader.

Bartosz Jurecki believes in his younger brother and says: “Michal always gives all his heart for the national team and I’m sure it will be the same now.”

“Wherever he has played so far, he has proven his class,” says Szyba. “Even though it’s a hard task for him, I’m sure he will do it. I have nothing against if he scores goals from the centre as well.”

Jurecki is known for his “off-road gear” as it is called by his teammates.

He never fears to shoot from the distance or burst into a big wall of opponents.

If no injury thwarts his efforts, he is already destined to be Poland's biggest star this winter.

The hidden gem

It is said that the wings are not the Poles' strong point. However, players on this position many a time freed the team when being under pressure and surprised the fans with their spectacular actions.

Think about Jakub Lucak's performance at the EHF EURO 2014, remember the amazing goal of Przemyslaw Krajewski against Croatia at the World Champions 2015.

The latter has been improving steadily recently. In the friendly tournament in Wroclaw just after Christmas he scored 10 goals in two matches and in Spain last weekend 16 goals in three matches.

The certainty of being in the squad for the EURO (as there is only him and Adam Wisniewski) seems to grant with confidence.

“The trust he received from the coach, helps him a lot. He used to be much more stressed when he debuted in the team. Now, when he really believes in his skills, he can be the first choice left wing in Poland,” says Szyba.

The outlook

The pressure on the hosts is huge. Fans, sponsors and the media cannot imagine the semi-finals without their team. The players themselves, however, push away the expectations and do not want to promise anything.

But it is only a tactic to reduce the stress as it is obvious that all of them dream of a medal. Especially, as for example Slawomir Szmal and Bartosz Jurecki officially announced that the EHF EURO 2016 will be their last European Championship.

It would be nice for them to directly qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games and to do so, they need to finish first or lose the final against France.

 


TEXT: Magda Pluszewska / ts
 
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