Headbands, socks and new faces
December 10, 2016
In Group C, in Malmö, teams actually got time to play some handball as well despite having to deal with strange rules and questionable dress codes – and we also got used to new faces and some surprising results.
By Peter Bruun
Debates about ridiculous rules like the headband of Danish winger Maria Fisker and the color of players´ socks dominated the agenda in Malmö, while the four teams in Group C of EURO 2016 tried to focus on playing handball and qualifying for the main round.
It is a matter of taste, which one of the issues was the biggest farce – Maria Fisker´s right to protect herself from another concussion or the color of the players´ socks?
Fisker´s headwear was rejected based on the fact that it was not a classic headband but head protection. The EHF claimed to follow rules issued by the IHF – the organization apparently does not allow players to protect their head. They do allow players to wear teeth- and groin protection, but that’s were it stops.
Does this mean that the IHF does not care for a player’s health from head to toe? As we all know by now, the matter was “resolved” and Fisker was allowed to play with some kind of homemade headband, manufactured by the team´s physiotherapists.
Color of Socks
It turned out that this would not be the only controversy – soon another body part was of concern. The color of the Danish players´ socks was different from the one of their ankle protection.
The socks were white, while the ankle protection was black, and that’s a “No-No”, according to IHF/EHF regualtions.
So, the Danes were forced to change their socks, while newly elected EHF president, Michael Wiederer, defended the rules in an interview on Danish TV2.
“I fail to see the problem. It is a question of the way we present out sport, and it does not look good, if one player is wearing white socks and another is wearing black socks,” he said, while TV2 expert commentator Bent Nyegaard reacted, by saying, “Oh my God! Please stop this nonsense and let us play some handball!”
Injuries and surprises
Actually, the teams did get to play some handball in Malmö as well.
No group at EURO 2016, was completely free of surprises in the preliminary round, and Group C was no exception to this rule.
Under normal circumstances, Hungary would have been the clear favorite against the Czech Republic in the opening match of the group. However, the situation for the team of coach Kim Rasmussen was far from being normal. The squad was hit by numerous injuries, causing headaches if not sleepless nights for the successful trainer.
Let’s just mention the loss of Zita Szucsánski, Anikó Kovacsics and Zsuzsanna Tomori to illustrate Rasmussen´s problems.
His opponent, Jan Basny, had the full crew at his disposal, and as the match progressed, it showed. The Czechs won as clearly as 27:22 and put the group upside down from the start.
The second match on opening night in Malmö’s Isstadion continued in the same fashion. Montenegro´s coach Dragan Adzic had stated several times, that he is planning for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. These plans apparently do not include a star player like right-back Katarina Bulatovic anymore, while right-wing, Jovanka Radicevic, quit the national team.
Montenegro´s match against Denmark showed that there still is a long way to go for Adzic and his young squad, if he wants to form a team that can win a medal at the next Olympics.
Only when he abandoned his aggressive 4-2 and 5-1 defense, returning to a 6-0 formation, did he cause the Danes some troubles – but not enough to prevent a Danish 22:21 victory.
Rasmussen´s spin and Adzic´s great day
On the second match day, Montenegro managed to fight themselves back into the tournament, and after another thriller, they defeated the Czech Republic narrowly – 28:27. It was enough to make Dragan Adzic boast: “This is one of the biggest wins in my professional career!”
Whereas Kim Rasmussen was busy telling Danish media that he hoped and believed that Zita Szucsánski would be fit in time for the clash with Denmark.
However, as the clock turned 9 am on match day – the deadline for changes in a teams roster – there were no changes in the Hungarian camp. And as Szucánski did not show up for Hungary´s “do or die” match against Montenegro on the last day either, it was easy to suspect Rasmussen of making a tactical spin just to inject some fear into the Danish minds.
Remember – the last time the two teams met was at the 2015 World Championship in Denmark – Szucsánski scored eight goals and Hungary won 29:22.
Without Szucanski, the Hungarian attack suffered once again shooting power from distance, and the aggressive and flexible Danish defense formation made it even tougher for Rasmussen´s women to create some opportunities for themselves.
In the end, the Danes had no real problems clinching an early main round berth, winning 23:19.
Despite their defeat to Adzic & Co., the Czechs were ready to join Denmark to the main round due to their goal differential, while Hungary and Montenegro were left to fight it out, which squad would clinch the last main round spot.
A draw would work for Montenegro, while Hungary needed a four goal win, at a minimum, in order to not depend on the outcome of the late match between the Danes and the Czechs.
Hungary never got in trouble, to make a long story short.
If you only score 14 goals in a handball match, it is hard to qualify for anything these days. Kim Rasmussen´s move to replace Eva Kiss with Janurik turned out to be – if not gold – then at least worth a main round ticket.
The Hungarian attack was not impressive on this evening, just like on the previous two occasions. They only managed to score 21 goals, but it turned out to be enough.
“Only” main round points were at stake between Denmark and the Czech Republic, in the last remaining match of Group C.
The Czechs were well on their way to taking these points as well as their first competitive victory ever against Denmark, as they were leading throughout the first three quarters of the game. Still, Denmark managed to squeeze out a 33:29 win.
However, Danish fans, which represented the vast majority of the 3,124 spectators in Malmö were still not content.
“We want Mulle on court”, they were singing towards the end.
However, “Mulle” Kristina Kristiansen was not sent on the pitch this time either. She has not even seen one minute on the court in the competition so far, and it is increasingly difficult to reconcile, why she was nominated in the first place.
Lotte Grigel did better as playmaker this time around compared to the weaker performance against Montenegro. Klavs Bruun Jørgensen claims that he still has plans for her (i.e. Kristiansen), but what are those?
Yet, it is hard to point a finger at a coach who has won all three preliminary matches. Denmark proceeds to the main round with four points, as does the Czech Republic, and Hungary is just happy to have qualified.