Repost. The IHF Olympic Qualification Tournament #1 Lyon: A review

Montenegro rising

France, the conqueror of a mighty army of medal contenders last winter, in Brazil, must question its short-handed back court line. Alexandra Lacrabère, troubled by injuries during the spring season, could not cope with the meanders of a strong and driven defence. And that is exactly what this Montenegrin defence was: feeding from within, from both wins and defeats, an outburst of pride. Most importantly, it is a thoroughly worked sector of their game, mastered by coach Dragan Adžić.

Olivier Krumbholz discussed what made the difference between the two teams on the last day: aside from the obvious lack of attacking ideas, “in Montenegro one can behave maturely at 22, whilst in France, this does not happen at 30” (source). Looking at his roster, we deduce he’s referring to taking responsibility, thus opposing Milena Knežević to someone like Sophie Herbrecht or Amélie Goudjo. What he did not say or did not want to consider, is that the match was a revelation for Knežević herself and that it will become a reference in regard to her future ratings.

This slight motivation drop on the French side, previously nourished by a massive correction in Skopje, has to be fixed in a few months’ time. The factors that interfered with them medaling in Beijing were problems within the group and in preparation. This time, Krumbholz repents and starts, not without fear, from another standpoint. Some facts keep him going: his team is based on a young and powerful generation, who has hardly exhausted its resources. His team has two goalkeepers who have made their way to success in pair (counter-examples: Győr, Croatia, Germany). His team has been confronted with failure post-Brazil. So instead of bearing the pressure of one wintery result, they can go on with testing and fixing playing systems, which is what they do best.

This last point is supported by the Montenegrins’ recent experience: disastrous WCh followed by a blossoming spring.

The bottom runners, Romania and Japan, have confirmed their current status. The former has delayed its generation change to the point where a counter-performance occurred twice in one season (WC and OQT), reducing them to outsiders of top handball. Meanwhile, the latter has been challenging and pushing the opponent into unknown territory, becoming an inspiration for the European powerhouses, both game and mentality -wise.

Gabriela Perianu and Eliza Buceschi, two of the most promising Romanian youth players, have started their senior team career with two failures: WCh and OQT. With them and with some other well hidden names, Romania will have to rebound in two to three years’ time in order to take back Brazil.

Despite its surprising mental block against France, Japan was a crowd-pleaser. While the commentator was referring to the Romanian side as “the beautiful team of Romania”, the audience was cheering loudly for Japan’s comeback in their last Lyonese game. So maybe Romania is beautiful, but only in retrospective.

Last but not least, I would underline Bojana Popović’s role in the course of this week-end’s events. She was player, colleague, coach, mother; she gave them water when they were thirsty. Highlight of the last day: the Popović – Krumbholz clash from the distance. At a legitimate two minute suspension for France, the coach throws his arms into the air in disagreement. A regal Popović turns to him and settles the account with an icy look and an imposing gesture. She had not stepped on French land as a guest, but as a conqueror.

I hope that happiness will remain here, with this club” she said after winning the EHF Champions League (source). Her kingdom is rising. Her legacy? The continuous quest for excellence.



MNE – JPN 30:24 (14:13)

FRA – ROU 24:19 (12:9)

ROU – MNE 23:34 (13:17)

JPN – FRA 17:30 (7 :13)

ROU – JPN 28 :26 (18 :10)

FRA – MNE 20 :22 (9 :9)


TQO/OQT Lyon – Useful Links

! LOH on Twitter, depending on WIFI coverage:

The official Facebook page is regularly updated:

The French Federation (+Hand TV for video):

Permanant link for the OQT:

The Romanian broadcaster with exclusive news and video:

Romanian handball website with on-the-spot reporters:

French sports websites and publications:;;


Montenegrin publication:

The Hottest Country In Europe

… is France. Many things have been accomplished by the French handball players this year. Before the current transfer frenzy, France had qualified a club team in the top 8 of Europe and presented an almost flawless national team in Brazil.

Last summer, Metz Handball made the headlines thanks to their Russian recruit, Ekaterina Andryushina. At that time, they were clearly taking an engagement towards the Champions League, that of starting off on equal ground with the rest of the European competitors. It was a safe bet, as the Russian link was a perfect match for Pineau and company. Youngsters Claudine Mendy and Marie Prudhomme surprised with their attacking skills, while, the defence was coordinated by Nina Kanto and sealed by Amandine Leynaud. A great adventure for them, a new market for European handball.

In Brazil, France showed character in both collective and individual play. Europe was gazing at the French wing players and dreaming of a left handed playmaker. A folly of will, technique and discipline transpired the performance of their back court players: Ayglon, Lacrabère, Pineau, Spincer, Signate, Mendy.

The story did not end in Brazil, as the audience focused on the sequel. The internal league is now aired online by the French Federation. In consequence, we were delighted to discover the close battle between Arvor29, Metz and Issy Paris.

Inevitably, the French players have received important financial offers during the winter break. So important that even the loyal Nina Kanto would consider an overseas contract. On one hand, Issy and Arvor will keep their players based on a baby-steps strategy whose goal is to win the Championship and  reach the group stage of the CL. On the other hand, Metz looks like a successful factory right now, whose products are cut out for the most exclusive handball societies.

The conclusion of this season will be written in May, at the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Lyon.

Simona Gogarla And The Tale Of Two Cities

May I interest you in some women’s handball? I promise a story full of drama, starting in the solemn ’90s and reaching a bitter and tearful end in 2007 , the year Paris Bercy closed its doors to Simona Gogarla. From chevaleresque Ljubljana, city of dragons, to imperial Saint Petersburg, city of tsars, this lady went through several handballistic lives. The climax of her story is set in Romania of 2000, a country in search of reference points.

In 1994, she transfers from Focsani to Chimistul Rm Valcea and becomes national champion for the first time in her career. In 1995, a young and talented generation projects itself into a certitude for the future by winning the WCh in Brazil. Simona is the main weapon in the final against Denmark, scoring the decisive goals in the dying minutes of the game. Overall, her playing time is not noteworthy, with 12 goals in 7 matches. However, a match is all it takes for a true talent to shine.

[Some of her teammates at the time were: Steluta Luca, Alina Dobrin, Narcisa Lecusanu, Cristina Mihai, Carmen Nitescu, Carmen Amariei and Ildiko Barbu.]

She takes part in the 1997 WCh and the 1998 ECh. She talks to Prosport about the period prior to the European Championship, in Romania: “For about 18 months, I was not called to the national team. The Slovenians insisted on me to play for them, but I did not accept their offer”. Consequently, in 2000, she is Romania’s sweetheart, as she becomes top scorer of the championship. Journalists write that she and Luminita Hutupan are unanimously acclaimed. The crowd bursts into a GO-GAR-LA shout after every single vital goal.

The 22 y old Simona had landed in Ljubljana in 1997 and was now, three years afterwards, at a turning point.  “(… )I had some wonderful years in Slovenia. At that time, Olimpija Ljubljana was the better team, but Krim set the foundation of a solid team. In my first season, we won the first title is the history of the club. Since then, the team has never lost a national trophy. And before I left, I played the final of The Champions League, lost to Dunaferr, in 1999.” she recalls for Prosport.

In between 2001 and 2004, her career is marked by repeated failures at final tournaments: the 2001 and the 2003 WCh, as well as at the 2004 ECh in Hungary.  After such an amazing ECh in Romania, Simona is persuaded to return to her home country and play for Oltchim. Her most notable perfomance in Valcea is the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup, lost to Lada Togljatti, in 2002.

After spending one year in Spain, playing for Itxako, Simona trasfers to Gyor. Here, coordinated by no other than Anita Gorbicz, she reaches the final of both the EHF and the Cup Winner’s Cup, whitout winning any of the trophies. Will luck ever come her way?

In 2005, that was certainly no luck, but something grater: a perfect team, animated by international experience and a coach that prefers the exercise of defence to that of the attack. [Saint Petersburg suited us well, as did Herning last year. As if it were the physical temperature that makes us cold minded and lucid… Romanians would resort to absurd arguments when it comes to handball, so why not?]  Simona’s “bad luck” is now covered in silver, one noble metal.

A difficult time follows the winter of 2005, for she faces injury and fluctuation in form.  The year 2007 finds her in Brasov.  No sooner spring sets in, than the team reaches the final of The Cup Winner’s Cup. Clearly outclassed by Larvik, Simona, Cristina Neagu and a certain Woo Sun Hee, among others, succumb to pressure. In 2008 – 2009, the team is set to take on Europe with Carmen Amariei, Alexandrina Barbosa, Lidja Horvat, Gabriella Juhasz and Ionela Stanca completing the roster. Instead, the season brings financial problems and failure to reach the  group stage of The Chapions League.  In the wider context of Tadici’s recontruction plan, which will not be implemented because of his scandalous sacking, Simona will never return to the national team.

Having terminated her contract with Brasov because of Mariana Tarca’s taking over the team, Simona Gogarla plays her first match for Rapid Bucuresti in January 2010. Today, she is coaching Rapid Bucuresti.

The winter cold has settled over Saint Petersburg. If you asked me about the weather in Ljubljana, I would assume it became colder on Saturday night.

In retrospective:

Mihaela Ignat

Cristina Varzaru

Alina Dobrin


Excursus –> Talking of Ljubljana, here is Luminita Dinu after yesterday’s match, wearing the scarf of the Krimovci, supporters of the Slovenian team:

–> Moving on to the other match of the group, I was reading and enjoying all the publicity in the local French media. Eyes were on Bojana Popovic long before the clash had begun. Some amusing quotes from

” (…) We are often considered a team that behaves well, too nicely. I’m sick of it! Let’s rebel! I need us to convey pleasure, to respect our opponent without exageration. There’s no point in bowing before Popovic. Kristina Liscevic will not waste her time prostrating. I need all my players and Liscevic can become essential (…)” Gardillou, the coach of Metz, intense as usual

” We can sense we’ve passed into another world. Big teams have big demands. Don’t ask me why, but the Montenegrins have asked to be in rooms with numbers ending with 30… They are divas. ” Thierry Weizman, the manager of Metz

“Svetlana Ognjenovic:  I know Popovic well.  She’s a nice girl outside the court. I wouldn’t say we are friends, but I prefer her in the locker room than in the middle of the match. She shouts less.”

“Claudine Mendy who has found her way with 6/13: « Not enough to my taste! I still have quite some failures. But not everyone is Popovic. » Clearly, the number 17 has impressed yesterday. And the dark-haired did not annoy only with her goals. She spoke during time outs, cutting her coach – who’s also her boss on the national team – short and she kept smiling at the refs after every whistle. ” (author: Marjorie BEURTON)

(there’s a short, but pertinent and witty, portrait of Popovic here – see prt sc – and also an interview with Krumbholz, presenting The Lady)

Now, this is what I call media coverage! Note that the writing style is not ill intentioned, nor mocking, nor malicious for that matter. It is a way of spicing up the atmosphere before and after the event. It is marketing, good marketing. Come to think of it, the Arènes were truly burning on Saturday night, when Metz was closer to victory than anyone dared to hope!


Kristina Liscevic In Translation

Le Républicain Lorrain reports on Kristina’s arrival in Metz. One of the most interesting and beautiful faces in handball talks about:

her  contract: “It was very important for me to understand every point in the contract. Thus it was reassuring to have Svetlena’s (Ognjenovic) help.”

her new … skirt : “It must be fun to play in skirts. I knew Metz had an original outfit. Everyone talks about it: the media, the internet.”

her motivation: “In Skopje, I was offered more money to stay, but the ChL adventure is very exciting. I am flattered the management thought of me to replace Allison Pineau.  She’s one of the best in the world. But THE best playmaker is Andrea Lekic. Lekic is God!”

her expectation: “Meet Lekic and Gyor in ChL!”

her challenge: «I will play next to world-class players such as Ekaterina Andryushina or Amandine Leynaud.  I expect this adventure to be a springboard.»

her duty: “Shoot penalties, sustain the collective play, put on muscle, because I’m not very thick. I have a 6-month contract. Let’s hope that in June, you won’t afford to let me go!”

Good luck!