PREVIEW: Norwegian women hoping to continue medal streak, nation’s men content for quarter-final spot at Beach Handball EURO 2017
Norwegian teams with different objectives
The country is the same, but the objectives differ for Norway’s two senior beach handball teams ahead of the upcoming Beach Handball EURO 2017 in Zagreb.
The women’s team is hoping for another medal, while the men would be content by reaching the quarter-final stage but this difference in hopes and aspirations is not so strange when you look at the history of Norwegian beach handball.
While the women have taken a medal at each and every EURO and World Championship since 2007 - with 2011 as the only exception - the men’s best achievement so far is sixth place in 2009 and 2011.
“We have managed to find a tradition of achieving good results,” said women’s coach Eskil Berg Andreassen. “We have also managed to keep the squad fairly stable, however, we have had to make some changes this year, so I am bit excited how we will do this time.
“Our first objective is to qualify for the world championship next year,” he continued. “But of course, I hope we can compete for the medals again this year,” says Andreassen, who will see his team competing against Poland, Ukraine, Sweden and France in the preliminary group, avoiding ruling European champions Hungary in the opening phase of the tournament.
“I am not even sure Hungary will be strongest team this time, though,” continued coach Andreassen. “Our group is strong but OK; Ukraine are always good, even though they seldom win a medal, but I expect Poland to be well-prepared, considering they are hosting the World Games at the end of July.
“France have great handball traditions, but they probably need some more experience with beach handball and I expect Sweden to be the weakest team in our group,
“Many teams can reach the top but I actually expect this EURO to be the most equal ever,” added Coach Andreassen.
“As ruling world champions, Spain may be the biggest favourites but I am a bit excited about Croatia as hosts, Poland as World Games organiser and Russia who will host the 2018 World Championship next year.
“Apart from those, I expect that Netherlands, Denmark and Ukraine will be good, while I am a bit uncertain about Italy and Hungary.”
While the Norwegian men have not been able to live up to the women’s exceptional results in recent years, their coach, Kjetil Lundeberg, is prepared for another championship in the shadow of the women, just like indoor handball has been in the country for so many years.
“I judge our chances of reaching the quarter-final as being possible,” said Lundeberg when asked about his team’s goal for the tournament in the Croatian capital.
In their preliminary group, his team will be up against the hosts as well as Ukraine, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland and France.
“The teams from Croatia, Ukraine and Serbia are the favourites for the top positions in our group,” continued Lundeberg. “However, France is a newcomer and may be able to pull a surprise - when it comes to winning the tournament, Croatia as hosts are the biggest favourites the way I see it.
“Apart from them, Russia, Spain, Serbia, Ukraine and Denmark are the biggest favourites, I think.”
TEXT: Peter Bruun/amc
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