Women’s EHF EURO Cup debuts with two double-headers
While 24 national teams start their Women’s EHF EURO 2022 Qualifiers campaign this week, four already qualified teams are ready for a premiere.
The first women’s edition of the EHF EURO Cup throws off on Thursday, with reigning European champions Norway as well as EHF EURO 2022 hosts Slovenia, North Macedonia, and Montenegro taking part.
The competition begins with two double-headers: Norway host Slovenia at 18:55 CEST and North Macedonia take on Montenegro at 20:15 CEST on Thursday, followed by both reverse fixtures on Sunday. All four matches will be streamed live on EHFTV.
It will be special occasions for all four teams, as they will be able to play in front of their home fans for the first time in almost two years, with a chance of giving minutes to less experienced players.
The first throw-off is in Bekkestua, where Norway play against Slovenia. Head coach Thorir Hergeirsson will use two slightly different squads for the two matches, and will have to do without stars Stine Oftedal, Nora Mørk, Sanna Solberg, Kari Brattset Dale, and Vilde Ingstad.
Nevertheless, Norway will have an experienced team mixed with young talent.
“It is an advantage for us to be reigning European champions and not have to go through qualification. The EHF EURO Cup 2022 comes in good timing for both our experienced players and our players with less national experience. We are very much looking forward to playing home in Norway in front of our fans in the Nadderud Arena,” Hergeirsson said.
Their opponents, Slovenia, are also looking forward to the matches with Norway.
Head coach Dragan Adžić can’t count on Ana Gros and Elizabeth Omoregie, and few others might step on the court only in the second match. Young players like Nena Černigoj, Ema Hrvatina and goalkeeper Karin Kuralt were likely to make their debut for the team.
“We are facing one of the best teams in the world. For every player that’s a big motivation. These EHF EURO Cup 2022 matches will show us where we stand. We want to take advantage of this experience for all matches to come in the future. Our first target is the World Championship in December but then it all comes down to the EHF EURO 2022 in front of our fans,” Slovenia centre back Nina Zulič said.
We are facing one of the best teams in the world. For every player that’s a big motivation. These EHF EURO Cup 2022 matches will show us where we stand.
Elsewhere, North Macedonia and Montenegro will go head-to-head twice in a Balkan derby. Approaching the first match in Skopje, Macedonian head coach Ljubomir Savevski invited 30 players for the national team week.
The selection includes a bunch of players that were part of the under-17 team that won the EHF Championship 2021 in Lithuania in August, like Teodora Dukoska, who scored 11 goals in the final against Iceland, and Emilijana Rizoska.
Montenegro are without injured Djrdjina Jauković and Katarina Džaferović, while Andrea Klikovac has retired from national team.
Even if head coach Bojana Popović is doesn’t have the full squad at her disposal, she is happy to have the players together again for the first time since the Tokyo Olympic last summer.
“I am happy that we are together again, even though we have a problem with injuries. We will give an opportunity to players with fewer minutes on the court in the jersey of the national team. We face North Macedonia, a great team. It is not going to be easy, but we must test potential players for the future and for the World Championship in December,” Popovic said.
Montenegro centre back Itana Grbić hailed the “special feeling and energy” that playing for the national team gives her.
“Seeing my friends from the national team makes me happy. These matches against North Macedonia will not be easy, but we will fight hard, no matter which 16 players enter the court.”