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18.10.2018, 16:30
Fresh faces showing up at EHF EURO 2020
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FEATURE: In 2020, the EHF EURO features 24 teams for the first time, so some unusual suspects will be challenging for a berth. Who are those teams fighting for qualification?
 

Fresh faces showing up at EHF EURO 2020

The Men’s EHF EURO will become bigger than ever in 2020. For the first time 24 teams will be at the start of the tournament, co-hosted by Austria, Norway and Sweden.

With eight more nations qualifying compared to the EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia, surely some teams will make it this time after failing to progress to the finals tournament in previous years.

The two best teams from each of the eight qualifying groups, and the four best third-ranked teams will book their tickets. It gives underdogs a better chance to qualify. So who are those teams which could spark a surprise?

The Romanian dream

It has been 22 years since Romania last qualified for an EHF EURO. But the tide can turn around this time. Surely, France could cruise to the win in Group 6, but the Romanian side can definitely compete with Portugal and Lithuania for the other berth(s).

They have the experience and the talent, but losing Xavi Pascual will surely impact their chances. Romania’s new coach, Manuel Montoya, has been Valero Rivera’s assistant both at Spain’s and Qatar’s national team, and will surely continue Pascual’s work.

Players like Orlen Wisla Plock’s Dan Racotea, St.-Raphael’s Mihail Popescu and Sporting’s Valentin Ghionea are the core of the Romanian side. Can the ‘Tricolori’ achieve their dream?

A chance for Slovakia

Slovakia and Russia have been drawn together in a qualifying group for the third time in a row. The Slovakian side drew with Russia (31:31) in qualifying for the EHF EURO 2018, but lost twice in qualifying for the World Championship 2019.

This time, Slovakia should be able to win their games against Italy in Group 7. And they might snatch a point against their neighbours, Hungary, who changed their coach as they ended the cooperation with Ljubomir Vranjes after his dismissal at Veszprém.

Switzerland back after 14 years?

Having a player like Andre Schmid in the roster, who scored at least 48 goals in each of the past four VELUX EHF Champions League seasons, definitely helps a national team that is struggling. The Swiss side have failed to qualify for an EHF EURO since 2006, when they were the host team.

But now they have the chance to proceed from Group 2, which also features Croatia, Serbia and Belgium. Maybe the barrier is still too high, but many Swiss players have gathered experience on the highest European club level with Wacker Thun and Kadetten Schaffhausen.

The Bosnian hope

Bosnia Herzegovina have never featured at an EHF EURO, but the tide could change this time. A young Belarusian side is favourite to proceed from the first place in Group 5, though their lack of experience could prove a minus in the long run. While the Czech Republic finished sixth at the EHF EURO 2018, they are hardly a powerhouse in European handball.

That leaves a reasonable chance for Bosnia Herzegovina, with a squad consisting of players who are regulars in the Hungarian, Romanian or Turkish League, and are featuring in the VELUX EHF Champions League and the Men’s EHF Cup.


TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / ew
 
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