Iceland want to climb to the top
Having been a constant at big tournaments in men‘s handball for many years, Iceland‘s women are now trying to establish themselves at the top level.
Two years ago they qualified for their first major championship, the EHF EURO in Norway and Denmark. The learning curve was steep there without a win in their group matches.
The team, however, learned from the experience and after qualifying for the World Championships in Brazil last year, they went through to the second round.
In qualifying for the EHF EURO 2012 in Serbia, the Icelandic team came narrowly second in their group after Spain, but got lucky and gained a place in the championship when Holland withdrew from hosting the tournament and thus forfeited their place.
With the preparation starting, Iceland will play Sweden twice away from home (on October 2 and October 3). According to coach Ágúst Jóhannsson, the matches are an important part of their preparation for the EHF EURO in December.
"Playing away from home against a strong team like Sweden is very important for us. We‘ll enter these matches with the intent to improve and evolve our game, but of course we are also looking for a good result.“
Maybe it sounds like a paradox that new recruits bring experience, but two of them are vastly experienced players. One is a foreigner who has recently gained Icelandic citizenship after living in Iceland for many years.
Ramune Pekarskyte of Lithuania brings much needed height into the Icelandic team and menace from the 9-metres. She has been the best attacking player for several years in the Icelandic league, but now plays with Norwegian team Levanger.
Pekarskyte became an Icelandic citizen last summer and Jóhannsson is adamant that she has a lot to offer to the team.
"Ramune is training with the team and will probably play with us. She can add a lot to the team as she is a really good player, playing professionally in one of the best leagues in the world.“
Furthermore captain Rakel Dögg Bragadóttir is returning from being out of the game for more than half a year after tearing crucial ligaments in her knee last year, causing her to miss the World Championships in Brazil.
"Rakel is working hard to regain her form in time for Serbia which is her aim. It‘s clear that if she succeeds, she‘ll reinforce the team as she is a top player,“ coach Jóhannsson says.
TEXT: Adolf Ingi Erlingsson / ts