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“The group of hell”: Players react to EURO 2020 draw

Courtney Gahan / br

Following the Women’s EHF EURO 2020 draw on Thursday morning in Vienna, Denmark’s Louise Burgaard, Netherlands Martine Smeets, Slovenia’s Ana Gros and Spain’s Mireya Gonzalez shared their thoughts on the results on the EHF EURO Instagram in live chats with ehfTV commentator Chris O’Reilly. 

The Women’s EHF EURO 2020 will be played in Denmark and Norway from 3 to 20 December. Tournament co-hosts Denmark were drawn into Group A and will be based on home ground in Herning. Their opponents will be defending champions France, Montenegro and Slovenia. 

“It is going to be a tough group, but there were hardly easier options. Our team will come with the new coach (Jesper Jensen) and new energy and it will be interesting to see how all the players will come out of this coronavirus period,” said Denmark’s Louise Burgaard, who joined French club Metz Handball ahead of the 2019/20 season and is therefore very familiar with some of her upcoming opponents. 

“We try to do some surprises like always”

In the preliminary round, Burgaard and her teammates will meet Slovenia, led by Ana Gros, the third top scorer in the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League 2019/20. For Slovenia, it is the third straight participation in the Women’s EHF EURO, after they ended a six-year wait to qualify for the EURO in 2016. 

Slovenia have a history of upsetting ‘big’ opponents in the early stages in championships, having defeated EHF EURO 2018 runners-up Russia in the preliminary round, eventual champions France in the World Championship 2017, and the title winners Netherlands in the opener of the World Championship 2019 – but Gros found the draw a very tough one for her side. 

“I don’t know what to say. Slovenia have had always the bad luck with the draw and we end up in the group of hell. Seems like we are destined for a group with the home team and France also always belong to us,” said the right back. 

“We will have a young team at the EURO, but our young players have already gathered a lot of experience, so we do our best. We try to do some surprises like always.” 

“I loved playing and living in Norway”

EHF EURO 2018 bronze medallist with the Netherlands, Martine Smeets, previously played for a Norwegian club and looks forward not only to the tough competition but returning to her former home. 

“We played against Hungary a few times in the past years and played Serbia recently and I can say it is a really difficult group. The good thing about the EURO is that you can have a few bad days at the tournament but everything is always possible,” said Smeets. 

“When I was in Molde I loved playing and living in Norway. It is a beautiful country and a great handball country. It will be a fantastic tournament.”

“At the EURO one match can change everything”

At the end of 2019, Spain pulled off a huge performance at the World Championship and reached the final in that competition for the first time. But their back Mireya Gonzalez is cautious ahead of the EURO, finding the group and competition more difficult in some ways.  

“We are never happy with the draws for the EURO. Russia have a lot of weapons and they always have a good team. Sweden will be feeling almost like at home,” said Gonzalez. 

“I’m not sure how others in the group feel, but we have gained a lot of confidence from the last tournaments. At the EURO one match can change everything and it will depend on whether all players will feel fit and healthy. I would be happy if we prove even better than one year ago at the World Championship.”

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