“You have to go 200 per cent so you win these games”
Following the draw for the Men’s EHF EURO 2022 on Thursday evening, four players shared their thoughts on the results via an Instagram live — and one clear theme was apparent, aside from a desire to perform at the top level.
All four players interviewed — Hungary’s Dominik Mathe, Lithuania’s Jonas Truchanovicius, Portugal’s Antoinia Areia and Germany’s Marcel Schiller — hope for the chance to play in front of fans again. With tickets for all EHF EURO 2022 preliminary round matches set to be available from Friday, the organisers certainly share this hope of delivering the atmosphere that has made the pinnacle event so special in the past.
“I can’t wait to play in front of spectators — for sure if it will be 20,000 spectators in Budapest I will be so happy,” said Mathe, before elaborating on Hungary’s hopes for the home EHF EURO, which will be co-hosted with Slovakia.
“If I am honest, we have high hopes to get a medal at home, but it will be very difficult to get this medal at home because in the main round we can meet France, Croatia, Denmark, Slovenia — it will be so hard to beat them.”
Hungary will meet Portugal, Iceland and the Netherlands in group B. Mathe expects tough matches against Portugal and Iceland and is acutely aware that the Netherlands are becoming an increasingly difficult opponent.
“I think it’s a balanced group. Everybody can beat everybody in this group,” said the right back who was top scorer of the EHF EURO Cup played by the co-hosts together with the two finalists from 2020, Spain and Croatia.
“I saw some fire in the eyes of the young guys”
While Hungary have been steady participants at EHF EUROs, Lithuania ended a long wait to reach the event this time around, having last made it to the final tournament in 1998.
“It showed we are capable of doing something to qualify for final tournaments, which Lithuanians are not used to doing,” said Lithuania back Jonas Truchanovicius, whose team reached the EHF EURO 2022 as one of the best third-ranked sides mainly thanks to a critical win over Iceland in the second-to-last round.
“That day is something special for the whole team. We could feel the energy we produced in that match. It was something special — I would like to have that feeling at the European championship.”
Lithuania will play from a challenging group F, which features Norway and Russia along with co-hosts Slovakia.
“We have Norway, we have Russia, we have a host team who are going to play on the home court. But we are looking forward to the championship and we are not coming there as tourists.”
They are not travelling to the EHF EURO for fun, but Truchanovicius — who won the EHF Champions League with Montpellier in 2018 — says his side will also gain valuable experience. “As a team we lack experience for these kinds of games. Myself, I haven’t played anything near a European championship.
“When we got the information that we qualified in Portugal [after the final qualifier], I saw some fire in the eyes of the young guys. New motivation.”
“We are protected by a star who is watching us”
For Portugal, it has been quite a journey over the last years, seeing them return to both the EHF EURO and World Championship after long waits. The team also qualified for their first Olympic Games in March.
For the EHF EURO 2022 draw, Portugal were in pot 1.
“I think we are in the right way and we are working like hell to be on this level and keep on this level,” said wing Antonio Areia, before speaking about the difficult journey over the past months due to the passing of national team goalkeeper Alfredo Quintana.
“It’s been really tough times during those couple of weeks. Of course, it’s a different strength that we have, because we are fighting for the goals he had also. We have extra strength to go forward and look to the competitions. In the Olympic qualifiers, we were on fire and now we are protected by a star who is watching us.”
“At the European championship it’s hard — you have to go 200%”
Germany wing Marcel Schiller has become a staple in the team since the EHF EURO 2020. His team will face Austria, Belarus and Poland in group D.
“It’s a good group. I think we are the favourites and we want to win this group,” said Schiller, before highlighting Austria in particular due to familiarity with many of their players from his club handball with Bundesliga side Göppingen.
“They have a lot of players in the German Bundesliga so it’s good to play against teams like this — you know these guys and we played in the qualifications two times against them. But at the European championship it’s hard — you have to go 200 per cent so you win these games and that’s what we want.”
Watch the full interview here.