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25.07.2017, 23:52
Making their mark in Slovenia
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PREVIEW: The Women's 19 EHF EURO starts on Thursday. Can Netherlands, France, Norway and the rest stop Russia or Denmark extending their dominance of the 1998 generation?
 

Making their mark in Slovenia

The next generation of women’s EHF EURO players are set to make their mark from Thursday (27 July) as the Women’s 19 EHF EURO gets underway in Celje, Slovenia.

With a wide range of club and national experience amongst many of the players in Slovenia, fans have a chance to see now, who could be making a mark on EHF EURO courts for many years.

There are 16 teams participating at the Women's 19 EHF EURO - the 11th edition since its debut back in Poland in 1996. Just four nations have won it since with Denmark (four times), Russia (three), Romania (two) and Norway, surprisingly, considering their record at a senior level, just once.

With many stars set to be born in Slovenia, the competition is a foretaste for what handball fans can expect at the next Women’s EHF EURO, set for France in December 2018.

All matches will be streamed live on ehfTV.

Back in April in Paris, the Preliminary Groups were drawn for the competition celebrating the 1998 generation.

Over previous years at both European and World championships, the young generation of Danish and Russian players have been swapping championships, defeating each other in a variety of finals.

As champions of both the last Women’s 19 EHF EURO and the 2015 IHF Women’s Junior World Championship, the previous generation of Danish players left a hard job for those coming in behind, them. At the IHF Women’s Youth World Championship in 2016, Denmark were defeated by a strong Russian side, but the Women’s 17 EHF EURO final in FYR Macedonia in 2015 saw Denmark beat Russia to capture the glory.

Could one of these two win yet another title for their generation or will a new strength emerge? We will know on August 6.

Group A
Hungary, Sweden, Romania and Netherlands make up the first of two groups based at the Dvorana Zlatorog playing hall. Swedish left back Hannah Flodman has been called “one of the greatest talents ever in Swedish women´s handball,” by her soon-to-be-club coach at LUGI, Dragan Brljevic and the 18-year-old will be looking to showcase her talents on the European stage in Slovenia.

“She has all the qualities and the right spirit and training culture,” says Swedish under-19 coach Ola Månsson. “She possesses a great and varied shot, and she is physically strong and just as good in the defence as in the attack.” Flodman’s 86 goals for VästeråsIrsta last season were not the only reason for her LUGI contract. Her effective shooting also contributed to her being awarded Talent of the Year in Swedish women's handball.

The young Netherlands team will look to emulate their senior side, while Hungarian back court player Noémi Háfra is one to watch.

The Hungarian has an ability to play in all three back court positions and although right-handed, Háfra can also pass very well with her left hand. “At my club I am right back, in the national team I play as a left back, but sometimes I play as a centre back. I love to play in all positions,” Háfra says. “In the future, I want to learn how to shoot with both hands.”

Hungary and Sweden topped their qualification group for Slovenia, winning all three of their matches while Romania and Netherlands finished second their respective groups with Romania edging out Iceland on goal difference.

Group B
The strong Russians are in group B with Croatia, Norway and FYR Macedonia. Automatically qualified, due to their second place at the Women's 17 EHF EURO in 2015, Russia will be eager to play competitively and show their power early on.

Croatia’s right wing Tena Japundža played for ŽRK Umag in the Croatian top league last season, scoring an average of five goals per match and developing into one of the most efficient players of her team. Her country finished sixth at the Women’s EHF EURO 2015 with Japundža second in the tournament scoring and finishing in the top five in Slovakia at the world championships for youth last summer.

“Our group is really tough, but we hope to beat Macedonia and fight with Norway for a place in the main round,” Japundža said. “I think that is the goal we have to focus on. If and when we achieve that, we will think ahead.”

Norway’s U19 coach Vigdis Holmeset, who was assistant to the Great Britain women’s team at the London 2012 Olympic Games, has some players with full national team experience and will be hoping to get out of a tough group with the team that reached the 2017 world youth championship semi-finals. But with players like right back Mari Finstad, who has just joined record champions Larvik, and Henny Ella Reistad, she has the weapons at her disposal.

“Henny is really a player for the future,” said Holmeset. “She is already on a high level considering her age and is very good at organising our attacking play.”

Croatia and Norway topped their qualification groups, while the Macedonians finished second in theirs, behind Hungary.

Group C
Spain, France, Germany and Serbia are the four teams who will be fighting to get out of the third group at Slovenia 2017.

Spanish right wing Ana Gonzalez Spain was an important part of the Rincon Fertilidad Malaga side that qualified for the Challenge Cup, in just her first season with the club and later in the season, made her debut for the senior Spanish team in the first leg of the world championship qualification tie against Ukraine.

The 19-year-old right wing from Málaga is also the captain of the Spanish women's U19 team. "This season was incredible for me. I didn't expect to play as much as I did with Malaga in my first year at the club. It has been really beautiful, and a learning year." Having played since the age of 14 for Spain, Gonzalez has accumulated 45 matches in the Spanish jersey, scoring 109 goals.

France right wing Melvine Deba has been combining a professional handball career with studying political science. At 19, Deba stepped into the spotlight this season with her club, Issy-Paris Hand. Along with Spain and France, Germany qualified after topping their groups and Serbia finished second behind Sweden in theirs.

Group D
Host Slovenia had the right to choose which qualification group they wanted to play in and chose group D alongside pre-tournament favourites Denmark. Can the home comforts of playing see them overcome such a great challenge? Portugal and Montenegro also appear in the group which plays at Dvorana Golovec, alongside group C.

As host nation Slovenia automatically qualified for the competition, and as title holders of the Women's 17 EHF EURO 2015 Denmark did too. So, Portugal, who scraped through their qualification group on goal difference, and Montenegro, who finished behind France in theirs, could benefit from two teams who have not played competitively for some time.

Women’s 19 EHF EURO: Rising Stars
In the lead-up to the final tournament the European Handball Federation has published a series of features looking at some of 'rising stars' to watch in Slovenia.

Articles published in the “Rising stars” series ahead of the Women’s 19 EHF EURO:

#1: Norway’s Mari Finstad: A player to shape Norway’s handball future

#2: Croatia’s Tena Japundža: Croatia’s right wing takes next step

#3: Spain’s Ana Gonzalez: A past, present and future


#4: Sweden’s Hannah Flodman: Sweden put faith in ‘Talent of the Year’


#5 France’s Melvine Deba: Thoughtful Deba leads France


#6: Hungary’s Noémi Háfra: Multi-talented Háfra stands out for Hungary


TEXT: EHF / amc
 
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