The two teams vie for a spot at the 2013 Women's World Championship on 2 and 9 June
Ukraine miss key players ahead of of play-off against Germany
What will prevail in the play-off match between Germany and Ukraine for a spot at the 2013 Women's World Championship? The young spirit of Germany's 36-year old Heine Jensen or the experience of Ukraine's 75-year-old head coach, Leonid Ratner?
Ukraine have just recently won two friendly matches against Turkey 27:19 (26 June) and 23:16 (27 June). However, despite the victories Ratner faces several problems ahead of the first play-off leg which will be played on 2 June in Oldenburg, Germany, as Ukraine miss several key players.
Team captain Anastasia Podpalova underwent surgery on 30 May, and so did back court player, Anna Redka. And Olgy Vashchuk, arguably the best defender in the Ukrainian team, also has problems with her knee and will not play in June.
“Missing these players hits us hard, and it will be difficult to cope with the German game," says Leonid Ratner.
During the training camp in the lead-up to the play-offs, Ukraine's main playmaker and key player in the team's 5-1 defence scheme, Nataliya Turkalo, who recently was voted 2013 Best Player of the Ukrainian national championship, has learned that she is and will therefore also miss the match.
"The mood in the team ahead of these important games could be better, but we will nevertheless fight until the very last second," said Nataliya Parkhomenko.
"Germany are an example for discipline. They have a good defence, good back court players and certainly (goalkeeper) Clara Woltering."
"Our trumps? They are difficult to find, but I guess, it is the power of our spirit. Ukraine are always up for a surprise. We can lose against an underdog, but beat the favourite.
"Only if we play an excellent game in defence and use the speed of our wings, Julia Managarova and Viktoriya Borshchenko, we can hope for a positive result," said Parkhomenko.
"It is good that our lines players, Valeria Zorya and Olga Peredery, have returned. We won't give up without a fight," emphasised Ratner.
The head-to-head statistics are in favour of Germany, as they won six of overall nine matches.
The last match between the two is well remembered by both teams. At the EHF EURO 2010 in Denmark and Norway, Ukraine needed to win by eight goals or more to advance to the main round.
And in the end Ukraine celebrated a 33:23 victory.
TEXT: Igor Grachov / ts
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