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01.01.2020, 14:30
Are Slovenia ready for new success?
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EHF EURO 2020 COUNTDOWN #6: Slovenia. After Ljubomir Vranjes took over as head coach just weeks before EHF EURO 2020, Slovenia are looking to shine again on the biggest stage
 

Are Slovenia ready for new success?

A regular name among EHF EURO finalists, this will be Slovenia's 11th appearance at a Men's EHF EURO, but a coaching change shortly before the big event has already made the build-up different from previous championships.

Despite a successful qualification campaign, with five victories and just one loss, Veselin Vujovic was removed from his position as head coach at the end of November, and he was replaced by Ljubomir Vranjes in mid-December.

Vranjes, who is Slovenia's first Scandinavian-born coach, inherits a team that obviously has a lot of individual quality and often plays their best against the strongest teams.

Three questions before the Men's EHF EURO 2020:

- Is there enough time to learn Vranjes’ methods?

In such a short space of time, Vranjes may not be able to implement all the new things that he would like for this championship.

Slovenia won bronze at the 2017 IHF Men's World Championship, and the Swedish coach was a fan of their playing style when they were at their peak.

But as there are not too many new faces in the squad, the team should be experienced enough to adapt quickly.

Most of the players played together for years before joining Europe's top clubs, and a new coaching energy was warmly welcomed.

- What are Slovenia aiming for at this EURO?

National federation president Franjo Bobinac wants Slovenia to play eye-catching handball again. That, of course, does not mean that defeats will be swallowed easily.

Although Slovenia are faced with a tough draw, the team wants to secure a ticket for an Olympic qualification tournament, and it will probably require at least a finish in the top eight to achieve this goal, but they should also not be discounted from fighting for a medal.

- Who will be the leader?

This is a big question, but it may not require an immediate answer.

On the court, THW Kiel centre back Miha Zarabec or Szeged star Dean Bombac will lead the team in the pivotal playmaker role. Vid Kavticnik or Jure Dolenec are expected to have the more formal position of team captain.

Former captain Uros Zorman will act as an assistant coach, and his role could be very important as he still has a lot of respect in the team.

Currently, it seems that only a huge team effort can make Slovenia big on the court.

Self-esteem

Slovenia's self-esteem was low before the coaching change, but it is now catching up. The players craved for a new coaching energy, and now it is a lot more up to them.

However, the absences of Matej Gaber and Marko Bezjak are a big blow.

Fun fact

Ljubomir Vranjes led Hungary in qualification for the 2019 IHF Men's World Championship, beating Slovenia in the play-off round, but he was replaced soon afterwards and did not have the chance to coach the team in Denmark.

Slovenia will be his third national team coaching assignment, as he also acted as Serbia's head coach for a period of just two matches in the EHF EURO 2014 qualification.

What the numbers say

Slovenia have reached at least the main round in six of the last eight EHF EUROs. They failed to qualify in 2014 and were eliminated in the preliminary round in 2016.

Their only semi-final appearance was in the 2004 EHF EURO, at home, when they ended up with silver.

Slovenia's next best achievements are a fifth-place finish in 2000 and sixth place in 2012, both of which were achieved close to home soil, so maybe it is time for Slovenia to reach a high placing a long way from home?


TEXT: Uros Volk / jw
 
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