FEATURE: This season has propelled so many young players into the international handball spotlight and here is a talent-laden collection of 20 who could be starring for their national team at EHF EURO 2020
20 for 2020: New fan favourites and future world-beaters
Following the first 20 for 2020 list in October, focusing on players who shone in the summer’s youth competitions, the net has been cast a bit wider this time as we consider everything which has happened since October’s opening EHF EURO 2020 Qualification matches.
While a number of the previous list’s rising stars are featured this time, the focus shifts to players who this season have shown they have the potential to make a big impact for their nation at EHF EURO 2020 and beyond.
1. Magnus Rød (21) – Norway
He already has two World Championship silver medals, but it is fair to say that Magnus Rød is enjoying a breakout season for club and country. The 21-year-old right back stepped up and made the position his own during Norway’s run to January’s World Championship Final, while he has already doubled his goals for Flensburg in the EHF Champions League with 40 so far, proving he is far much more than a brilliant defender.
2. Aleix Gomez (21) – Spain
Gomez has caught fire this season in Europe, leading Barca Lassa in scoring with 60 EHF Champions League goals. The right wing enjoyed himself at the World Championship with an impressive 23 goals, playing behind All-star Ferran Solé, proving Spain’s right wing is in safe hands for years to come.
3. Romain Lagarde (22) - France
Lagarde has been an ever-present for HBC Nantes for the past 18 months, during which he has been part of the French national team, but it appears as if he is ready to take the next step. The left back will head to Rhein-Neckar Löwen in 2020 and he displayed his potential to his future employers with a pair of brilliant performances last month. If he can keep this level up, he will have a big part to play for France next year.
4. Dejan Milosavljev (23) – Serbia
Few knew much about the Serbian goalkeeper when he joined Vardar in the summer, but that soon changed as he made an instant impact with a match-winning performance against defending champions Montpellier. A disappointing World Championship has done little to hit his club form and you cannot help but foresee the 23-year-old as a key part of the Serbian team in 2020 and beyond.
5. Emil Nielsen (22) - Denmark
Having burst onto the international club scene last season, Emil Nielsen continued to display his talent with Skjern this season, earning himself a move to HBC Nantes next season. He has been called up to the Danish national team on a handful of occasions, but it will be a serious task for him to break into the World Championship-winning goalkeeper duo of Landin and Green by next January.
6. Artsem Karalak (23) – Belarus
There are a number of talented young Belarusian players making an impact in Europe at the moment and Karalek is making arguably the biggest splash. After reaching the EHF Cup Final with Saint Raphael last season, the line player has shone in the top flight with Kielce, alongside fellow Belarusian Uladzislau Kulesh, and this experience can only benefit his national team in years to come.
7. Johan a Plogv Hansen (24) - Denmark
The former Faroe Islands international replaced Hans Lindberg and won gold in his first major championship in January, a perfect reward for the brilliant form he was in for Bjerringbro-Silkeborg, scoring 67 goals. Lindberg and Lasse Svan are ahead of him on the right wing, but will not be there forever and Hansen appears a fitting candidate to hand the baton over to.
8. Alexsander Shkurinskiy (23) – Russia
A hand surgery towards the end of the group phase meant an early end to his European season and his absence was sorely felt by Meshkov Brest as he had previously delivered them 50 goals. The left back saw plenty of court time in a disappointing campaign for a Russian side full of promise and he is certain to play a big part if they do fulfil that promise in 2020.
9. Valter Chrintz (18) – Sweden
Skilful right wing Chrintz was a bright spark in a difficult season for IFK Kristianstad, scoring 46 goals in the VELUX EHF Champions League and earning a call up for the Swedish national team next week. He caused terror for every opposition defence at the M18 and scored 44 goals en route to gold with Sweden, now he has a chance to show what he can do at senior level.
10. Kyllian Villeminot (20) – France
20-year-old Villeminot is the only player on the list to taste VELUX EHF Champions League success as he was in the Montpellier squad which sensationally won the title in June. The centre back starred for France at the M20 this summer and stepped up for Montpellier during the absence of star playmaker Diego Simonet.
11. Arkadiusz Moryto (21) – Poland
Right wing Moryto has been part of the struggling Polish team since 2017, but his performances since moving to Kielce is cause for optimism for the proud handball nation. He has not been shy in front of goal in his first European season, scoring 48 goals and there’s more to come as a quarter-final against PSG awaits, but first he must help Poland battle through to EHF EURO 2020.
12. Alexander Blonz (18) – Norway
“I do not know him,” admitted Sander Sagosen when Blonz was first called up to the Norwegian national team in December, but the left wing made an immediate impact, displaying his goalscoring ability with every opportunity he was given. Currently playing in the Norwegian second tier, the 18-year-old will move to Elverum next season and is certain to impress in 2020 if he continues to develop.
13. David Mandic (21) - Croatia
Mandic has enjoyed a rapid rise this season. Since joining Zagreb last summer, he has flourished on the left wing in Europe’s top flight, scoring 41 goals, and played the vast majority of Croatia’s World Championship campaign. With his impressive wing shooting and ability to defend in a more central role, it is difficult to imagine Mandic not featuring heavily in 2020.
14. Nico Rönnberg (26) – Finland
The oldest player on the list, but he certainly deserves to be here. Everyone now knows who Riihimäen Cocks are and know who Nico Rönnberg is after an astonishing 72 goals in nine VELUX EHF Champions League matches. Having missed Finland’s two opening EHF EURO 2020 Qualifiers, can his return throw them back into the mix in an open Group 5?
15. Jaka Malus (22) - Slovenia
The tradition of talented Slovenian playmakers looks set to continue as Jaka Malus continues his rise. The 22-year-old is already a regular in the VELUX EHF Champions League with Celje and will move to Brest this summer. That move may be the catalyst for him to take charge of the Slovenian national team as their first-choice playmaker in 2020.
16. Johannes Golla (21) – Germany
Flensburg’s latest addition on the line has fit in very well in his first season and looks well-capable of dealing with the rigours of European handball. Golla made his national team debut in March against Switzerland, but despite his talent, he finds himself playing in the same position as three of Germany’s most important players at the moment – Kohlbacher, Wiencek and Pekeler.
17. Dominik Mathe (20) – Hungary
With 56 goals in the M20 EHF EURO, Mathe was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing campaign for Hungary. He backed this up at senior level with 48 goals for Balatonfüred in the EHF Cup and this saw him given a surprise chance to shine for the injury-hit Hungarian team at January’s World Championship, where he displayed his power at times in the main round.
18. Haukur Thrastarson (17) – Iceland
Iceland surprised everyone with their M18 silver medal last summer and Haukur Thrastarson stood out as the team’s exceptional talent, winning the tournament’s MVP award. The 17-year-old playmaker has shown his comfort at senior level as well, impressing for club side Selfoss in the EHF Cup and displaying his fearless and exciting nature in two matches during January’s World Championship.
19. Luis Frade (20) – Portugal
Frade was a serious threat on the line for Portugal on their journey to the M20 semi-final, which saw him score 26 goals and nominated for the All-star team. Frade enjoyed his first experience of VELUX EHF Champions League handball with Sporting CP as they reached the Last 16 for the first time and it would not be a huge surprise to see him break into the national team ahead of EHF EURO 2020.
20. Dan Emil Racotea (23) – Romania
At just 23, Racotea already has five seasons in the VELUX EHF Champions League with Orlen Wisla Plock under his belt and this experience will be crucial if Romania are to rescue their EHF EURO 2020 campaign. The right back is set to join Veszprém this summer and if he progresses with the Hungarian powerhouse, he could be a force to be reckoned with.
TEXT: Chris O'Reilly
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