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08.04.2019, 11:13
Portugal prepared to make something beautiful
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FEATURE: Portugal are on course to reaching their first EHF EURO since 2006 and it is a result of impressive progression at all levels
 

Portugal prepared to make something beautiful

Something special is happening in Portuguese handball. After Sporting CP’s historic run to the VELUX EHF Champions League Last 16, where they succumbed only to the powerful Veszprém, and FC Porto’s ongoing impeccable EHF Cup adventure, it is the turn of the Portuguese national team to jump into action.

On 11 April at a crowded Guimarães Pavilion, Portugal will host France in Round 3 of EHF EURO 2020 Qualification Group 6.

The evolution of Portuguese handball, both at club and national level, is well-known and coach Paulo Pereira confirms it.

“I believe that after a loss of competitiveness in the last 15 years, we are on the right path, due to the continuous work of the clubs and the federation’s administration.

“Better athletes, bigger investment from the big clubs and more training hours are some of the reasons that led to the excellent results obtained in recent years from youth teams and hopefully also contribute to the qualification of the senior team,” says the Portuguese coach.

The Portuguese national team have not participated in the EHF EURO since 2006. Almost 15 years later “there is some expectation and anxiety associated with it, but the hardest is yet to come.

“We must maintain the attitude that has led us to two wins in two games. Both were important but the victory in Lithuania was decisive to get closer to qualification”, says Pereira.

Having come so close in recent years to qualification, Portugal’s chances have rarely looked better than it does now, but the two victories over Romania and Lithuania in October did not happen by chance.

“I think there was a change of behaviour from the group after losing to Serbia in the World Championship play-off. The commitment of each player has been an important guarantee. On the other hand, we can never forget the excellent work that has been done in the clubs that we depend on enormously to achieve these goals,” highlighted Paulo Pereira.

Regarding the weaknesses of the French team, the national team coach was very clear. “It is very difficult to find weaknesses in the French national team. The only one we can find is that they think, like most teams think, that losing to Portugal is impossible.”

Honour the name of Portugal

Tiago Rocha, captain of the Portuguese team and Sporting CP line player, once again emphasised that Portuguese handball is on the right track and the spirit of the nation has to be above any club. “Now it is time to defend our country. We have to be all focused and united, with a great spirit of sacrifice, forgetting the colours of the clubs. We will do everything to honour the name of Portugal and make something beautiful,” highlighted Rocha.

“We played two good games against Lithuania and Romania. We have a very well-structured team and this proved to be a good start with two victories. We know there are still four games remaining, but we want to continue this way, overcoming the next challenges we have to face,” said the 33-year-old.

“A few years ago no one thought this would be possible”

Rocha, who represented FC Porto for several years and now plays for Sporting CP, is very proud of the participation of Portuguese clubs in Europe this season.

“These results show that Portuguese handball is growing and fares very well against the great European teams, a few years ago no one thought this would be possible.

“Sporting eliminated Dinamo and gave a great response against Veszprem. Porto are in the quarter-finals of the EHF Cup and eliminated Magdeburg along the way. We must all be very proud of this path Portuguese handball is taking,” concluded Tiago Rocha.


TEXT: Tiago Nogueira / cor
 
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