20221109 POL Main

Poland’s assets: big hearts, will, and character

MAL7445 V EHF / Björn Pazen

What a night they had and what a night they have ahead: Poland have their fate at the Women’s EHF EURO 2022 in their hands. But after their miraculous escape and 22:21 win against Spain, they have another high hurdle on Wednesday to make their main round dream come true: hosts Montenegro.

The victory over Spain – after recovering from a four-goal deficit with 10 minutes to play – marked the end of a 13-match winless streak for Poland at European championships.

Next, they lock horns with the hosts Montenegro on Wednesday (18:00 CET, live on EHFTV) – and will not only face 16 players, but also thousands of frenetic fans.

Calculations are easy: If Poland take at least a point, they are through to the main round; if they lose, their future in the tournament depends on the result of the late match between Germany and Spain.

One Polish player, who knows Montenegro and the Moraca Arena very well, is centre back Kinga Achruk, who played for Buducnost from 2013 until 2017 – and even won the EHF Champions League with the Montenegrin side in 2015.

Since five years, Achruk has been back in Poland and playing for Lublin.

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“We will have a very special atmosphere. Montenegrin fans are really amazing, they are always like an eighth player on the court. But even without thinking about the fans, it will be a tough game, as Montenegro really play well at this championship”, says Achruk.

Her coach, Norwegian Arne Senstad, has his own special memories with the fans in the Moraca Arena.

“In 2010, when I was coach of Norwegian club Storhamar, we faced the good old Buducnost team in the quarter-final of the EHF Cup Winners’ Cup – and sensationally beat them by six goals on home ground,” Senstad recalls.

“Then we travelled to Podgorica, and with all those incredible fans it took Buducnost only 20 minutes to be ahead by 10 goals – only because of this atmosphere.”

In the end, Senstad and Storhamar went down by 35:20.

Still, the goal of the Polish team is clearly set, according to Achruk: “We dream of making it to the main round. The chances in every match are fifty-fifty. We never give up and always do our best, no matter what the score is, we want to leave the court and say: we have our heads up and we gave all we could.”

The best example of the new strength of the Polish side came last Monday, turning a 16:20 deficit against Spain with 10 minutes into a 22:20 lead – and ultimately a win.

For Achruk, it was a matter of development.

“We are really happy after this amazing game. We played really good against Germany, fast, with a strong defence, did not cause many mistakes, but we lost,” she says.

“Against Spain it was not a beautiful game, we made many mistakes, had problems in attack, but in the last five minutes we showed our character and hearts. We were down by four and we won, we always believed in us.”

20221109 POL Quote
I coached many teams, but I have never seen players with such an attitude and heart. When they put the jersey with the Polish eagle on, they give everything they have.
Arne Senstad
Poland head coach

Coach Arne Senstad is truly impressed of his players.

“I coached many teams, but I have never seen players with such an attitude and heart. When they put the jersey with the Polish eagle on, they give everything they have,” he says.

“Against Spain, we showed that everything is possible. It was a big relief to win this match and show this character.”

Despite his own negative memories 12 years ago, he is looking forward to the clash on Wednesday.

“The players shall just go out and enjoy this atmosphere. This is the best motivation you can get, playing in such circumstances. This is, everybody – including me – was dreaming of. You cannot prepare for this atmosphere, we just need to turn it into our energy on the court. I am more concerned if all players are fit, as some are really struggling.”

For back court player Karolina Kochaniak-Sala it is all about the will.

“We want to win against Montenegro and we can do it. Everything starts with the defence, it this works, everything is running,” she says.

“We have a great team spirit, this is why we play how we play now. We are all together, simply great. Of course, the atmosphere with so many fans will be special, but I like to play in such an atmosphere. Maybe it even helps us.”

photos © 2022 Anze Malovrh / kolektiff

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