PREVIEW: Over the next six days, 29 teams will battle for medals at the Beach Handball EURO 2017 in Croatia's capital, with the tournament's best matches live on worldwide TV and online
Europe's hottest beach handball spot? Zagreb's Jarun Lake!
The prelude has been more than promising. From Friday to Sunday last week, the U17 Beach Handball EURO took place on the shores of Zagreb's Jarun Lake – now it is time for the Europe's best senior teams to take to the court.
Household names in European beach handball have registered for the sport's pinnacle event, but there are also nations that return and mighty handball countries that will stage their debut on the sand. Overall there will be 29 teams, 15 in the women's event and 14 in the men's event, participating.
And fans around the world will see the very best of them, with all matches from Court 1 and Court 2 streamed live on www.youtube.com/ehfTV.
One of the biggest favourites in the men's competition are arguably hosts Croatia, the defending European and current world champions. If Croatia win, it would mark their fifth consecutive win following top podium finishes in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015.
However, for Ivan Jurić, one of the most experienced players in the Croatian team, it is clear that this EURO is tight and anyone can win.
“We expect a good tournament with strong competition from all the teams,” said Ivan Jurić, who was voted MVP at the 2016 IHF World Championship. “Out of the 14 teams, probably 10 or even 12 can beat each other - it’s going to be really interesting to play in and to watch.
Returning to European beach courts for the first time since 2013 are Denmark, while France have only been at the EURO in 2002 and now send a men's team again and women's team even for the first time.
“We will discover a lot in this competition,” said Eric Quintin, one of the key figures in France who convinced the French Handball Federation two years ago to become involved in beach handball.
“We still have a lot of work to do regarding the organisation of competitions, as well as developing players, coaches and referees, but even without experience, we hope to perform well in order to show the best side of French handball,” he concluded.
All new for Hungary's women
In the women's event, Spain arrive in Hungary as the reigning world champions, while Hungary won the Beach Handball EURO 2015.
In the Hungarian squad many things changed since 2015. After a heart-breaking bronze medal penalty shoot-out loss against Norway at the 2016 IHF World Championship on home sand, the team has a new head coach, new technical panel and new players.
"This is my first spell as a beach handball coach,” said the freshly-installed Botond Bakó, who replaced Janos Groz. “We have only just started with new methods and are doing things in a new way.
“Five or six key players from the 2016 squad are missing so we needed new players and that's why we decided to look for them in the indoor game – I have worked many years as an indoor coach and now I can profit from these good connections with the teams.”
The Spanish women maintain the same block who took the glory at the World Championship last summer, but with two important changes as new specialists Judith Vizuete and Jennifer Gutiérrez come in, replacing the injured Ivet Musons and Inma Navarrete for their preliminary group which features Switzerland, Greece, hosts Croatia and Italy.
"We made modifications in our style of play to surprise our opponents,” said women’s coach Daniel Lara ahead of the tournament. “All the teams would like to get a victory against us because we are the world champions, so this is an extra motivation. To face this, we should be humble and work hard.
European beach handball goes worldwide
The Beach Handball EURO in Croatia experiences an unprecedented media interest for the sport.
While all matches on Court 1 and Court 2 will be streamed live, 28 matches will be produced for TV in a 6-camera production.
This includes the final five matches from Tuesday to Friday on Court 1, the four semi-finals on Saturday as well as the matches for third rank and the finals on Sunday.
Matches are broadcast live in Croatia (Arena Sport), Norway (TV2) and Germany (sportdeutschland.tv) from the preliminary round onwards, while the final weekend will see the sport literally going worldwide.
The final matches, which includes the semi-finals as well as the finals, will be shown live in parts of Asia (USC/ NTS Sport), the USA as well as in Belgium, Italy, Poland (Eleven Sports), Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia (Sport 1).
TEXT: EHF / ts
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