Seven players to watch in the qualifiers
A total of 37 matches between Monday 26 April and Sunday 2 May will wrap up the Men’s EHF EURO 2022 qualifiers.
Only two of the 20 available tickets to the finals tournament in Hungary and Slovakia have been booked so far, as Germany and Serbia are confirmed to join the two co-hosts as well Spain and Croatia – EHF EURO 2020 champions and runners-up – at the 13-30 January tournament.
So, with 18 spots still to be occupied, who will be the key players that step up in the decisive phase of the qualifiers next week?
Mathias Gidsel (Denmark)
The breakthrough player of 2021 will not feature at the EHF FINALS Men 2021 after his club GOG was eliminated in the quarter-final, but the All-star right back of Denmark’s golden IHF World Championship 2021 can add another highlight to his season. Group 7 leaders Denmark need at least a draw in Switzerland next Wednesday to book their ticket to the EHF EURO 2022, which would be Gidsel’s first European Championship.
Alexander Kotov (Russia)
What could go wrong for Russia? Leading group 3, they have two matches against Faroe Islands outstanding to clinch their EHF EURO 2022 berth. And while their opponents are out of contention, Russia will need to stay focused. Alexander Kotov have been playing a dominant role for Chekhovskie medvedi in the EHF European League, only just missing out on a place at the EHF FINALS in May. Kotov scored six against Ukraine, now is the time for him to step into the spotlight again.
Kay Smits (Netherlands)
Remember that amazing buzzer-beater that put Netherlands past Poland in group 5 last month? Smits was the man who did it with his 10th goal of the night. The right back is having a truly impressive campaign, scoring at least eight times in each of the four Dutch qualifiers so far, giving him the joined lead - with Switzerland's Andy Schmid - in the qualifiers top scorers list with 35 goals. After their 2020 debut, Netherlands are closing in on their second appearance at an EHF EURO – but will need another strong showing from Smits & Co. to make it past Turkey and Poland again next week.
Marko Panic (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Since Germany have secured their qualification, the remaining question in group 2 is who will join them to the finals tournament in January 2022. Bosnia and Herzegovina are in the best position – leading both rivals Estonia and Austria by two points. However, with a duel against Germany and a possible ‘final’ in Austria coming up, it is time for players like Marko Panic to step forward. Now the Meshkov Brest right back must prove that he can drive his national team to success.
Szymon Sicko (Poland)
If Poland want to play at the EHF EURO six years after they hosted the 2016 edition, they need to fulfill a clear task: win their last two matches in group 5. Easier said than done, with the two main rivals for the tickets as opponents: Slovenia and Netherlands. Lomza Vive Kielce left back Sicko scored 22 times so far for Poland in the qualifiers, but crucially netted only four from his 14 attempts in the home defeat against Netherlands in March. With a bit more accuracy next week, he can help Poland to the finals tournament.
Miha Zarabec (Slovenia)
The THW Kiel centre back has been relatively quiet in these EHF EURO qualifiers so far, as he scored three goals over two games. But Zarabec will be motivated to guide Slovenia through their busy schedule, which includes trips to Turkey and Poland as well as a home game against Turkey. Slovenia are strong favourites to take one of the two tickets from group 5, but the 29-year-old Zarabec will be aware he and his teammates need to deliver next week.
Andy Schmid (Switzerland)
Switzerland returned to the EHF EURO after 14 years in 2020, and they certainly want to enjoy the experience again in 2022. With Denmark and North Macedonia as opponents in two must-win qualifiers in group 7, they will look once more to Andy Schmid, who has scored 35 goals so far. The 37-year-old centre back netted 10 against Denmark, which wasn’t enough for the win, and will have to come up with similar performances next week to make the impossible possible for Switzerland.
Top scorers of the Men's EHF EURO 2022 qualifiers:
- 35 - Kay Smits (NED)
- 35 - Andy Schmid (SUI)
- 30 - Mikita Vailupau (BLR)
- 28 - Max Granlund (FIN)
- 26 - Karl Toom (EST)
- 22 - Szymon Sicko (POL)
- 21 - Kiril Lazarov (MKD)
- 20 - Filip Kuzmanovski (MKD)