Seven rookies who could make a breakthrough
Rating a gem is always difficult, as many players who shine at junior or youth level cannot replicate the same performances on the big stage.
Yet this makes unearthing future stars even more rewarding, documenting their rise and eyeing their potential, a scouting prowess that could help clubs and national teams develop better and healthier.
In this feature, we settled on seven players that could prove to be the real deal in the future, despite not making their debut at the EHF EURO to date.
The 22-year old back court player is one of the players whose stock is on the rise both at club level and in the national team. Sunnefeldt won the Swedish league with IK Sävehof in 2019, scoring 229 goals for the champions and earning the best rookie of the season award.
His next step was to move to Danish side SønderjyskE, but after a year, he was ushered into THW Kiel, as the recent EHF Champions League winners saw his potential. Despite not playing a big part in Kiel’s rotation, Sunnefeldt’s potential was also spotted by Glenn Solberg, the new Swedish national team coach.
After scoring eight goals in two friendly games against Japan in 2019, Sunnefeldt was also called up for the IHF Men’s World Championship in Egypt and will also be a part of the Swedish side for the qualifier double-header against Montenegro. The 22-year old playmaker has already played at the Men’s 20 EHF EURO 2018, but has never donned the national team shirt in a competitive game for his national team.
“Oskar is a very exciting two-way player who has developed further since he left the Swedish domestic league. His transfer to Kiel has shown that he plays at the highest level,” Solberg told the Swedish Federation’s official website.
The 20-year old centre back has been a prized prospect in German handball for a number of years and he will make the big step next summer when he leaves GWD Minden to play for Rhein-Neckar Löwen.
“Juri is an exceptional talent and of course not at the end of his development. He is looking forward to the next step in his career and to being able to learn a lot from Andy Schmid in the playmaker position. We are proud that we succeeded in convincing him of the Rhein-Neckar Löwen,” said Oliver Roggisch, Löwen’s sporting director, according to the club’s official website.
With the double-header against Austria looming before the IHF Men’s World Championship, Germany’s coach, Alfred Gislason, called up Knorr, after the playmaker, who also served for Barça’s second team in a one-year stint, made his debut by scoring three goals in two games against Bosnia Herzegovina and Estonia.
Knorr has already scored 35 goals and handed 22 assists in the German Bundesliga, therefore he looks like the real deal and could feature for Germany at the EHF EURO 2022.
When two Danish goalkeepers meet in the last game of the VELUX EHF FINAL 4, it is difficult to even bring up the idea of another one breaking up a superb duo. But Niklas Landin and Kevin Møller might have stiff competition in the years to come.
Emil Nielsen has been called up only five times for the Danish national side, but the 23-year old goalkeeper is slowly getting better and better. Leaving the comfort of the Danish league two years ago to sign for ambitious French side HBC Nantes was a leap, but Nielsen, the All-Star goalkeeper at the Men’s 18 EHF EURO 2014 has been nothing short of superb this season.
The 23-year old Danish shot-stopper has the third-best saving efficiency in the French league, 36.33 per cent, close behind more experienced goalkeepers like Wesley Pardin and PSG’s Vincent Gerard, and has earned serious praise for his performances in the EHF Champions League Men.
With Landin and Møller set to earn some extra time out in the next games, Nielsen could feature in the double-header against North Macedonia in March, as he did in Denmark’s first two wins in Group 7, against Switzerland and Finland.
Still only 24, Læsø is a dual-pronged threat in attack, playing both as a centre back and as a left back. Since breaking out at Aalborg Handbold in 2017, Læsø has scored at an alarming pace in the Danish league, putting 344 goals past the opposing goalkeepers in the previous three seasons.
The top goal scorer of the last season in the Danish league, Læsø has added 40 goals in the EHF Champions League Men and scored another 96 in the domestic competition this season, earning his first call-up to the national team.
Provided he will keep his form intact, Læsø will be a shoo-in for the EHF EURO 2022.
Born in 2000, Makuc has already displayed flashes of brilliance since he was only 17 in the EHF Champions League while playing for RK Celje Pivovarna Lasko. The Slovenian centre back has been already touted as the next Ivano Balic and a move to a European powerhouse was the logical move for him.
Signing for Barça last summer, Makuc has added a layer of pressure on him performing. Having already won the gold medal at the Men’s 20 EHF EURO 2018 with Slovenia, the cunning playmaker was always going to take the next step and Ljubomir Vranjes decided it was time for Makuc to mingle with the big boys.
He was called up for the Slovenian camp for the first time, as Makuc could make his competitive debut in the double-header against the Netherlands before going to Egypt for the IHF Men’s World Championship.
Himself a former playmaker with an outstanding handball nous, Vranjes will probably maximise Makuc’s potential and this could be a scary outcome for Slovenia’s opponents.
He scored his first goals in the EHF Champions League when he was only 15 for HC Metalurg, but has impressed even more this season in the EHF European League. Stefan Dodic looks to be the full package, a creative centre back with an appetite for goals, having already scored 13 goals for the North Macedonian side in the seven games played in the European competition.
With a new coach for the Serbian men’s national team in Toni Gerona, Dodic can make his debut in the double-header against France. “We want to create a larger group of players, to have various options and to see some young guns like Stefan Dodic,” said Gerona, according to the Serbian Federation’s official website.
Lenne has already donned the French national shirt 16 times, but has never played at an EHF EURO for “Les Experts”. A winner at the Men’s 18 EHF EURO 2014, Lenne was touted to be next big thing for France on the right wing, but did not fulfil his potential to the full extent, both at club and international level.
A two-year stint at Barça never took off for Lenne, but he has been a steady performer for Montpellier this season, scoring 38 goals in the French league and adding another nine in the EHF European League, exactly on par with his more experienced counterpart at club level, Valentin Porte.
Now, Lenne will face fierce competition, but with a good performance in the double-header against Serbia, on 6 and 9 January, could prove to coach Guillaume Gille that he truly is the future for the right wing position.