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02.11.2016, 13:24
Olympic finalists start EHF EURO 2018 campaign
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ROUND PREVIEW: The second part of the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification includes four matches on Thursday, three Rio 2016 semi-finalists and several new coaches.
 

Olympic finalists start EHF EURO 2018 campaign

On the second day of EHF EURO 2018 Qualification on Thursday, France, Serbia and Sweden will be the focus as all three will debut new coaches when they start on the road to the final tournament in Croatia.

There is a live ticker at ticker.ehf.eu for all matches and the game Poland vs Serbia at 20:00 hrs is furthermore broadcast on ehfTV.

GROUP 1
Denmark vs Netherlands, Thursday 3 November, 20:30 hrs local time

In women’s handball, Denmark versus Netherlands would be a top clash on an equal level. In men’s handball, the 2016 Olympic champions are the clear favourites on home court.

It will be the first international match without the involvement of Ulrik Wilbek for the Danes in a decade.

The former national coach of both the men’s and women’s sides stepped down as technical director of the Federation after returning from the Olympic Games.

Though Denmark are boosted by their victorious Rio 2016 campaign, coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson keeps his feet on the floor: “Netherlands beat Poland in the World Championship Qualification and as experienced Mark Bult is back, they are even stronger.”

Together with Bundesliga players Fabian van Olphen and goalkeeper Gerrie Eilers, Bult will lead the Dutch side on their course to the EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia, though their long-term goal is to secure a ticket to the EHF EURO 2020.

GROUP 2
Poland vs Serbia, Thursday 3 November, 20:00 hrs local time

The most important match in the history of meetings between these sides was in April 2012 when Serbia, motivated by their EHF EURO silver medal, eliminated Poland on the way to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

But from that moment on the teams went separate ways: Serbia were below par in the following EHF EURO events and even missed out on places at the World Championships in 2015 and 2017, while Poland finished third in 2015 in Qatar and ranked fourth at the Olympic Games in Rio.

All Serbian hopes are carried by new head coach Jovica Cvetkovic, who persuaded top stars such as Darko Stanic and Rastko Stojkovic to come back to the national team.

Despite closely missing a medal at Rio, Poland are flying on the wings of success thanks to Vive Tauron Kielce’s VELUX EHF Champions League trophy and the development since Talant Dujshebaev took over in spring 2016.

Dujshebaev’s new job is to manage a transition in the team – in contrast to the Serbians, where experienced athletes return, some of the older players have retired from the Polish national team.

GROUP 6
Sweden vs Montenegro, Thursday 3 November, 19:15 hrs local time

Four major stars and a top coaching duo have gone, so a new wind will be blown through the Sweden camp. The encounter against Montenegro is the first match for Icelandic-born head coach Kristján Andrésson, the successor of Ola Lindgren and Staffan Olsson.

The match will also see Montenegro assistant coach Milorad Davidovic and team manager Petar Kapisoda leading the team after head coach Ljubomir Obradovic resigned on Tuesday night following an incident at a training session.

Kristján Andrésson is to form a new team, after four cornerstones of the last decade retired from the national team: Mattias Andersson, Tobias Karlsson, Kim Andersson and Fredrik Petersen.

It is not only because of this transition that the hosts are aware of the Montenegrin side – the Balkan team were Sweden’s stumbling block on the way to the World Championship 2013, when the four-time EHF EURO champions were eliminated by Vasko Sevaljevic & Co.

On the other hand, Montenegro aim for their fourth ever EHF EURO participation after 2008, 2014 (when they eliminated Germany in the qualification phase) and 2016.

Therefore the experienced Vladimir Osmajic was nominated, who is confident for the 2018 tournament: “We have a tough group, but nothing is impossible. The Swedes have rejuvenated their team and maybe we can see our chance in this match.”

GROUP 7
France vs Lithuania, Thursday 3 November, 19:00 hrs local time

All eyes will be on the bench for the first France encounter after the end of the Claude Onesta era. With three EHF EURO trophies (2006, 2010, 2014) won under the helm of Onesta, France begin their 2018 campaign with the debut of his successors Guillaume Gille and Didier Dinart.

The job against the Lithuanians, who have not qualified for an EHF EURO event since 1998, seems to be manageable for the Rio 2016 silver medallists.

In the French squad, Dika Mem and Yanis Lenne, two former Men’s 18 EHF EURO champions, will take their first steps in the senior side, while Arnaud Bingo and Benjamin Afgour return after three-year absences.

Though they are the favourites, Gille is clear that France intend to start their campaign strong: “There is something at stake in those games, they are not friendlies, so we'll have to switch to competition mode right away. We've called up 25 players, so this international week will give us the opportunity to see some players we might not have had before.”

Lithuania hope for a strong performance, but expect the second duel with Norway at home to be the one in which they can hope for their first points.


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg / ts
 
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