Favorites at the European Handball Championship: old friends and a no longer so secret insider tip

Spain: Again a lot of routine – but without two pillars

Spain is going to a major handball tournament and Raul Entrerrios is not there? Actually unimaginable. But the record international with 294 internationals finally declared his retirement from professional handball after the Olympic tournament, which ended with the bronze medal. Now coach Jordi Ribeira has to see how he closes this gap. The now 40-year-old Entrerrios ultimately had a large share in the last two European Championship titles in 2018 and 2020. They also reached the final in 2016, but lost to Germany.

A cut in personnel was expected after the Entrerrios resignation, but the Iberians are tackling the European triple venture to a large extent with their old guard. Old hands like Joan Canellas (35 years old), Gedeon Guardiola (37), Eduardo Gurbindo (34) and Jorge Maqueda (33) should ensure success again. In terms of experience, no other team can fool the Spaniards. Particularly painful, however: Alex Dujshebaev, the player for the very special moments when attacking, has to pass injured.

Norway: Rested Sagosen should fix it

In previous major tournaments, the Norwegians have always played in front, in 2017 and 2019 they were both runner-up world champions. In 2020 at the European Championships in their own country, the really big coup should succeed, it was then “only” the bronze medal, also because star player Sander Sagosen seemed a bit overplayed at the end of the tournament. That shouldn’t happen again.

The Norwegians around coach Christian Berge have decided not to let the backcourt ace of THW Kiel play through in the preliminary rounds so that he can still improve. That should be possible in the supposedly easy group with Russia, Slovakia and Lithuania.

With a Sagosen in top form, the Scandinavians should have a say in the awarding of the title, especially since other Norwegians such as Sagosen’s Kiel team-mate Harald Reinkind also represent top international class.

Hungary: Strong World Cup and the spectators behind

At the last major tournaments, the Hungarians already made people sit up and take notice. Nobody expected 5th place at the World Cup in Egypt last year. The Magyars had already caused a stir a year earlier at the European Championships when they left the highly traded teams from Russia, Denmark and Iceland behind them in the preliminary round and in the end jumped out a good ninth place.

What is now possible in your own country in front of your own handball-crazy spectators in full halls? Certainly a lot. Much will depend on how the team deals with the pressure. At the European Championships two years ago, Hungary was the youngest team to start. This time, goalkeeping legend Roland Mikler, who is playing his 13th major tournament, is a team that is on average just over 25 years old. “We are consistently going our way, but we do not want to speak of a target for the European Championship at home”said Laszlo Nagy, the former world-class player and now the national team’s chief strategist.

At the most recent Eurocup, the four-nation tournament with the already qualified and seeded teams, the Hungarians again showed their skills. They became tournament winners with only one loss to Croatia. In any case, one can look forward to these Hungarians. The axis with veteran Mate Lekai as playmaker and giant Bence Banhidi should also be painfully remembered by the DHB selection: At 28:29 from a German perspective at the World Cup, Alfred Gislason’s defense could never defend this duo.

Stand: 10.01.2022, 16:08

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Favorites at the European Handball Championship: old friends and a no longer so secret insider tip