PREVIEW: Head coach Lajos Mocsai leaves no doubt that there is a lot at stake in Hungary's World Championship Play-offs against Slovenia
’Game of the year’ for Hungary
It is absolutely no surprise that Hungary’s head coach Lajos Mocsai labelled the World Championship play-off against Slovenia (8 and 15 June) the ’game of the year’ for his team.
In a country where the total of Olympic gold medals per capita is the second highest in the world, the Men’s World Championship in handball is considered to be a chance to qualify for the Olympic Games.
"The duel with Slovenia is important from the point of view of our short term goals but it also defines the long term goals of Hungarian handball," said Mocsai.
Hungary have been preparing for the match in Veszprem, where the first leg will be played, but the players from local side MKB-MVM Veszprem only joined the squad three days prior to the clash because they played in Germany at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 last weekend.
It is needless to say that players from Pick Szeged are in a good mood spirits after they won the EHF Cup in Berlin, while Veszprem’s players are still licking their wounds from the disappointing fourth place finish in Cologne.
Szeged were driven by the outstanding performance of star goalkeeper Roland Mikler, whose last game for Szeged was the final vs against Montpellier as he joins Veszprem in the summer, and veteran left back and defensive specialist Ferenc Ilyés. These two look also promising in the lead up to the match against Slovenia – unlike Laszlo Nagy who produced a rather lacklustre performance at the VELUX EHF FINAL4.
The prolific right back needs to find his game as soon as possible because Hungary are missing shooting options from their backs.
Gabor Csaszar is struggling with a lack of playing time as the middle back saw little action at PSG this season, while at on the left back coach Mocsai has limited options to choose from.
Strong year for Hungary
However, with Györi Audi ETO winning the Women’s EHF Champions League, Pick Szeged the EHF Cup and Veszprem finally getting a piece of the Cologne action it was a great year for Hungarian clubs.
"I saw some excellent performances from my players with their clubs. Now the time has come for them to do the same for their country," says Mocsai.
"I don’t have to motivate my players, they are outstanding athletes who know what they owe to their mother country. I’m 100 per cent convinced they will give all they have for our cause."
Mate Lekai became Slovenian champion with Celje and the playmaker is not happy with the draw.
"The way Slovenia play does not fit our style of playing. They are very fast and have great players but I feel we can beat them if we manage to slow them down to our tempo."
Hungary are preparing with their full squad while Slovenia will have important players like Uros Zorman and Miha Zvizej missing due to a suspension, which tips the scales in favour of Hungary a little bit in this match which is otherwise very hard to predict.
TEXT: Bence Martha / ts
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