This season’s hottest country is what we call in handball “an expected miracle”. Poland has done what no other team in modern handball had: reaching the semi-finals of a World Championship after a five-year absence from international tournaments.
It all started like all great things do: with a great disappointment. Poland lost the 2011 battle for the WCh against Denmark, the same Denmark that would later defeat them in the bronze match at the 2014 WCh. Did they come close to qualify in 2011? Maybe not, but they certainly did not resign themselves after that episode. The 2012 campaign for the ECh offered them a second chance to pursue their expectations. But what was there to do against two superpowers like Russia and Montenegro? This being said, Poland did defeat Russia once and gave a hard time to Montenegro in the campaign.
Finally, in 2013, Poland’s luck turned. Not only were they assigned a “terrestrial” opponent in the play-offs for the WCh, but they also engaged into a wide open fight for the 2014 ECh. Following their epic triumph against Sweden, some players looked fantastically appealing for a star-thirsty market: Alina Wojtas, the unpolished diamond of Polish handball, Kinga Grzyb, the sizzling veteran with teenager legs, Patrycja Kulwinska, the clock-like pivot who strikes at the right hour, Karolina Szwed, the surprise center-back substitute, Katarzyna Koniuszaniec, the sneaky winger,Kinga Byzdra, the unfaltering defender…
The former got her deserved five-star contract in summer 2013 when she was hired by Buducnost Podgorica. And it is from this season that Wojtas will be part of another of Europe’s most successful clubs: Larvik HK. Does Poland hold any more surprises or have we seen it all? I can’t help noticing that the veterans play an important role in this success: Karolina Kudlacz (29), Iwona Niedzwiedz (35) and the wingers Koniuszaniec (29) and Grzyb (32), and that the young Byzdra and Szwed haven’t had particularly brilliant performances in their international clubs. Will Alina Wojtas prove me overcautious?
2012-2013 Serbia, Montenegro