Despite being drawn in a tough Preliminary Group alongside Germany, Hungary and Spain, Croatia have every chance of doing very well in December in the Women’s EHF EURO 2012 in Serbia, coach Vladimir Canjuga said after the Group stage draw.
Croatia looking to perform on the big stage
The Croatians are yet to win a medal at a women’s major event, however, Canjuga believes that the tournament in Serbia from December 4-16 is a big chance for his team to finally deliver on the big stage, while he is also confident that they have a fair chance of a podium finish in the 2012 Olympics in London.Canjuga acknowledged that winning a medal in the European Championship is a tall order under any circumstances.
“The European Championship is a tougher competition than the World Championship because there are no second-tier opponents,” Canjuga told Croatian media after last Friday’s draw in Monaco.
“I think it’s a finely balanced group including teams we are suited to and we are confident that we can get a result against any of them. Spain will come with their confidence beaming after finishing third in last year’s World Championship in Brazil, but we beat them recently and have every chance of doing it again,” he said.
Croatians with six out of six
The Croatians were the only team to finish the qualifiers with a perfect record of six wins out of six and Canjuga’s optimism is also based on the fact that their other two Preliminary Round rivals did not perform in recent events.
“Germany did not play well in Brazil when they finished 11th so they will be looking to bounce back at EHF EURO 2012 while Hungary did not qualify for last year’s World Championship and hence we should start our match against them as favourites,” Canjuga pointed out.
With three teams from each of the four groups advancing to the Main Round, Canjuga knows that hauling as many points as possible in the Preliminary Round will be vital in the bid to qualify for the semi-finals.
Finishing top of the group is crucial
“We have to be at our best to win the Preliminary Pool and carry maximum points into the Main Round. It is vital to finish top in our group because we could end up playing Iceland, Russia, Montenegro or Romania in the Main Round, the latter three being handball powerhouses also aiming for gold in the European Championship.”
“We have to be aggressive and stand our ground because this is the competition where each team shows their true colours and what you achieve is what you are worth on the world handball map. A good result at the Olympics would certainly be a huge impetus for EHF EURO 2012,” he stated.
The other two Preliminary Round groups will also be fiercely competitive. Group A includes hosts Serbia, Norway, Czech Republic and Ukraine, while Group B comprises Sweden, Denmark, France and FYR Macedonia.