Tough groups for world champions Spain and EHF EURO 2012 silver medallists Serbia
Men's EHF EURO 2014 hosts and defending champions, Denmark, will face Czech Republic, FYR Macedonia and Austria in the Preliminary Round Group A of the European Handball Federation's national team flagship event in January next year.
It was one of the much awaited decisions as the draw for the final tournament took place at Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning, Denmark, less than six months before the first throw-off.
In Group C Olympic champions, France, will face Serbia, Poland and Russia while 2013 world champions, Spain, will compete with Iceland, Hungary and Norway in Group B for one of the coveted spots in the Main Round.
Croatia, Sweden, Belarus and Montenegro have been drawn in Group D.
At the end of the event it was also deciced which of the four hosting cities will host which group: Group A will therefore be played at the Jyske Bank Boxen (capacity 14,000) in Herning, Group B at the 4,600 Gigantium in Aalborg, Group C at the NRGi Arena in Aarhus and Group D at the 5,600-capacity Brondby Hallen near Copenhagen.
The draw was conducted by EHF President Jean Brihault and the federation's Secretary General Michael Wiederer as well as four national team players from different federations: Kristian Kjelling (Norway), Kamil Syprzak (Poland), Raul Santos (Austria) and Niklas Landin (Denmark).
Commenting on the draw, Staffan Olsson, head coach of the Swedish national team said:
"Obviously it's a tough draw, but definitely not impossible. We have special memories of Montenegro who defeated us in the play-offs for the World Championship last year, but then again, that was a year ago, so it is not special after all.
"However, all our opponents are strong teams, and qualifying for the main round will be our main goal, and hopefully we can take at least two points with us from the the group. Four points would be great, but maybe a bit optimistic."
Commenting on the draw French national team player Vincent Gerard said:
"It's going to be tough, since Russia and Serbia are very strong nations, playing very physically. Serbia will certainly want to proof themselves for their first major competition with their new coach, Ljubomir Vranjes.
"The key will be to be physically fit, because in the EHF EURO you play a lot of games in a few days, and no one is going to make it easy for us."
Viktor Szilagyi, national team player for Austria said:
"It's great to be in the same group as the hosts. It means that we will be playing in the entire group phase in the championship's heartland in front of packed ranks.
"Everyone will be focused on the Danes, so it will be more quiet for us. We have already beaten the other two teams (Czech Republic, FYR Macedonia), so we are satisfied with the draw. It could have come worse.
"However, we know where we stand. We are still a relatively small handball nation, and everything needs to work, if we want to beat these teams."
The first matches will throw off on 12 January 2014 with the final taking place two weeks later on 26 January 2014.
An overview of all four preliminary round groups can be found here.
TEXT: EHF / ts