The Hottest Country In Europe

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? 

2011-2012 France

2012-2013 Serbia, Montenegro

2013-2014 Poland

Romania’s Next Generation Update

PerianuThanks to GSP, who has interviewed Gabriela Perianu, I can update my post on Romania’s most promising players, written two and a half years ago.

Gabriela Perianu …

 

Born: 20/6/1994

Plays for: HC Dunarea Braila

Position:LB/RB

Favourite player: Bojana Popović – “She was sensational! I wish to reach her level. This is what I train for.”

Dreams of: playing for Gyor or Buducnost, in five-years’ time

International competitions:

ECh U17 – 2011 – best LB

ECh U19 – 2011

WCh U18 – 2012 – best LB

WCh U20 – 2012

ECh U19 – 2013

WCh – 2013

Serbiphoria

One question: who will win the 2013 WCh?

The EHF, the IHF, coaches Heine Jensen and Alain Portes, players Andrea Lekić, Allison Pineau and Jovanka Radičević answer.

The EHF writes:

Defending champions, Norway (seeded in Group C), and EHF EURO 2012 gold medallists, Montenegro (seeded in Group A), are once again among the hot contenders for a medal, and so are Hungary, the bronze medallists of the EHF EURO 2012 and the hosts of the upcoming EHF EURO, together with Croatia, in December 2014. The Serbian team on home court is always a force to reckon with, as the men’s team proved by winning silver in January 2012 and the women’s squad by its fourth place in December 2012.

The IHF emphasizes:

But the list of main contenders for the medals is as long as never before: Up to ten, eleven teams are aiming for the semi-finals, with some big names.

Norway arrive at Serbia as the defending World Champions after entering the top of the podium by a final victory against France in Sao Paolo two years ago. All four 2011 semi-finalists are part of the 2013 edition, as also Denmark and Spain have made it to the event.

But in contrast to 2011 two former Yugoslavian are aiming high: Host Serbia and European champions Montenegro, who took the biggest success in all sports by becoming European champions one year ago after beating Norway in a thrilling final after two extra-times in Belgrade.

Aside, Hungary, Romania, Germany, Netherlands (after eliminating Russia in the qualification) build the strongest phalanx of an overall of 12 European teams in Serbia.

Heine Jensen predicts:

There is a big group of favourites. Norway and Montenegro are favourites, but Brazil and the French team too. Let me make a joke: In this tournament the world record holder in championship winning is without chance.

Alain Portes agrees:

Norway and Montenegro are favourites in my eyes.

The official website has interviewed Andrea Lekić:

I believe that Montenegro, as European Champion, can be very confident about it. There is Norway as well, as the current World Champion. To this list I would like to add Brazil, as well as South Korea, who played an extraordinary Olympic tournament last year. I hope that with a good performance we can also have a chance to fight for the Championship.

… Allison Pineau

I won’t count France among the favorites, because our last performance in Serbia. Norway and Montenegro are definitely the favorites for the gold.

and Jovanka Radičević

It’s going to be a though and uncertain championship. Usually there are surprises on World Championships, but I know one. Whoever plays against us, will have a hard time.


Is this going to be the third championship in a row disputed between Norway and Montenegro?

What can newcomers Serbia, Poland and Czech Republic bring to the world stage?

France, Denmark, Germany, Romania? Are you there yet?

Do I see a non European contender?

The answers, in two weeks.

Another December

Yesterday’s match between Romania and Denmark proved there is a lot to look forward to this winter.

New faces on both sides of the court, glowing with youth and determination. Past queens making their comeback with dignity. Slowly but steadily, Romania is rebuilding the lost citadel of its dreams.

Elisei

Valentina Ardean Elisei returns after a one-year absence. Fierce, right?

ALice

Don’t let appearances fool you. She’s actually a sweet and gentle girl.

C2C3

C5C6

C7C8

The most talked about Romanian player, Cristina Neagu is but a step away from her old form and may leave deep footprints in Serbia.

Paula

Defence?  Easy! Paula Ungureanu giving Tadici the signal:  “got it covered, boss!”

Pintea

Crina “What did I do?” Pintea will be glad to give a helping push.

JANP

Romania was leading without any fuss and Pytlick had had enough; “Damn, these Romanians are back in business”.

ChiperZamfir

Tadici has discovered this oasis of players called Corona Brasov, not far from Dracula’s castle. They can jump and are, as you can surely imagine, thirsty for glory.

AM&gabiAM2Denisa

But hey, we grant you this victory. For the joy and smile of little miss Hansen.

Til December,

Yours ever handball-loving country,

Romania