Lazarov to lead North Macedonia with dual role
This is the 17th article in a series of 24, presenting all participants at the Men's EHF EURO 2022 in Hungary and Slovakia.
North Macedonia have a strong handball tradition with the whole country loving the sport to its maximum. They come into their sixth consecutive EHF EURO with a special story: legendary player Kiril Lazarov, who is still an important part of the HBC Nantes squad and in the national team as a right back, will act as player-coach.
Three questions ahead of the Men’s EHF EURO 2022:
Can North Macedonia step up?
Although they underperformed at the IHF Men’s World Championship 2021, finishing 23rd without a win, North Macedonia still have confidence they can be successful at the Men’s EHF EURO 2022. And with Lazarov, line player Stojanche Stoilov, and the goalkeeper duo Martin Tomovski and Nikola Mitrevski among the squad, they can be a hard nut to crack.
Lazarov has a clear vision for his team and the style of play. Young players will be given a chance to prove themselves, but North Macedonia can also count on experienced stalwarts in crucial moments. This combination could prove beneficial, as North Macedonia look to put the disappointment of 2020 – when they failed to progress to the main round for the first time at an EHF EURO – behind them.
What do Kiril Lazarov and Filip Mirkulovski bring to the team?
Lazarov took over the national team in February 2021 from Danilo Brestovac during qualification round 2 for EHF EURO 2022. He led his teammates to an extraordinary win over Denmark, with experienced centre back Filip Mirkulovski by his side as assistant coach. Both also scored for their country in qualification, and will probably do so again in the final tournament.
Lazarov’s record and love for handball are well-known. Adding Mirkulovski, who came back to the team after stepping back in 2018, brings something a little extra. The duo have a special connection with the national team and this, together with their tactics and experience, sets a good foundation for North Macedonia’s handball future.
Will the youngsters in the Macedonian squad show their potential?
The rejuvenated team will have a tough task in Debrecen to qualify for the main round against medal favourites Denmark, a confident Slovenia, and Montenegro. However, Lazarov will certainly give his young players the opportunity to show what they are made of. Look out in particularly for centre back Marko Mishevski and right wing Nenad Kosteski.
Under the spotlight: Kiril Lazarov
One of the long-time leading players worldwide and most successful handball player of his country, Lazarov has been a leader on the court for a very long time. Turning 42 in May, Lazarov remains on top of his game and is capable of scoring with powerful shots.
But at this EHF EURO he will be under the spotlight for his coaching skills. He proved in qualification these are not lacking, but his challenge will be to lead his team on court and on the sidelines.
North Macedonia face tough clashes in group A against Denmark, Montenegro and Slovenia. Beating Denmark 33:29 in the qualification phase will be a boost to their confidence, and they know their other opponents well. North Macedonia’s all-time best ranking was fifth at EHF EURO 2012; they finished 15th at EHF EURO 2020 after being 11th twice and 10th in 2014. They will have learned from mistakes in qualification and their preparation matches, and certainly never lack confidence.
North Macedonia have faced Slovenia and Montenegro in the EHF EURO group phase previously. At EHF EURO 2018, the three countries met in group C alongside Germany; North Macedonia finished top of the group with two wins and one draw. Meanwhile, they finished second to Denmark in group A at EHF EURO 2014, and also played them in the main round at EHF EURO 2018.
What the numbers say
This EHF EURO 2022 is the sixth in a row and the seventh in total for North Macedonia. In 34 matches they have won eight times, six matches ended in a draw, while the loss count is on 20.
Men’s EHF EURO participations (including 2022): 7
Best result: 5th place (2012)