The head coach of the Russian national team, who attended the matches in Ljubljana, told Handballfast about her impressions of the top-tournament and singled out Norwegian Stine Oftedal.
— Lyudmila Valerievna, it’s clear, you tried to watch everything, and did you manage to see many games live?
— Every game, that was held in Ljubljana. Including both semi-finals and Sunday matches: play for the third place and final.
— Then let’s talk about this issue: at first it seemed that there was no handball celebration in Slovenia, compared to Montenegro…
— To start with, with the arrival of Montenegrins and their supporters far less empty seats were left in the stands. The fans from Montenegro filled most of them. Concerning holiday feeling… You know, I saw it differently. The holiday isn’t ours anyway, is it?
— All right, and how did you find the handball level as a whole?
— Well, probably, in the current situation I wouldn’t talk about the level or measure. Though, obviously, the top-tournaments are indicative, to some extent. Let us say, even using the subjunctive mood, which I don’t really welcome: we wouldn’t get lost in front of the favorites in our best squad.
— Speaking about the teams, who is worth mentioning, who surprised you?
— Probably, there are no surprises in places distribution according to the results of the tournament, I suppose, everyone or most people would agree with me. Everyone got what they played.
Indeed, it is amazing not to see the French team in the top three winners, but their spirit obviously has fallen after unsuccessful semi-final. They failed to concentrate on the match with Montenegro… Clearly, it wasn’t the France we are accustomed to see!
The Norwegians? Yes, finally they managed to win the gold. But during the game they really missed Kari Brattset, both in defense and in attack.
Though, eventually they created an efficient team, even without main left wings. Their reserve capacity is high enough to solve tournament tasks successfully in the absence of key players.
— Which teams, that did’t get into the winners, did you like most?
— The Swedish. I liked them at the Tokyo Olympics primarily for the strongest back line in attack, and now they played mostly in defense. They were strong defensively! I suppose, the national team of Sweden was unlucky with standings, it was in the same part with Norway and Denmark, otherwise it would certainly have been in the semi-final.
— What trends did you notice at this European Championship?
— I wouldn’t say, it’s a current, momentary trend, but it is fact that all leading national teams have top-level goalkeepers. Major tournaments can’t be won only by attack: the contender for gold primarily should act as a defense. The team, contending for a medal, needs this connection — goalkeeper and defense.
— Does the team definitely require worked out plans in attack? Or should strong players be able to improvise?
— I would answer as follows: personalia largely desided the fate of majority key matches. Teams’ leaders. Their good or poor play. For instance, compare Oftedal and Zaadi. How Oftedal played in semi-final, where she decided in attack on her own. And Zaadi, who, being the leader of her national team, didn’t express herself at all. Well, or Nura Merc in the final, she and Oftedal… Or Itana Grbic, who played an amazing match in the absence of Raicevic! On the whole, some matches surely depended on personality on the court, not only on team’s tactic.
— How would you comment refereeing? Again, did you find any tendencies?
— It has already been discussed a lot about summer changes. It was the first top-tournament we watch after these amendments had been accepted. We could observe all this on the example of the Spartakiad and our Super League. Probably, all the teams had questions concerning particular referee’s decisions, let us not stop here.
— Can you evaluate the symbolic team of the tournament: do you agree with all the positions?
— Although, some positions are disputable, on the whole, probably, I agree with the jury’s choice. It’s logical to name Emma Friis and Jovanka Radicevic as the wings. The pivot Pauletta Foppa — I think, also agree. Concerning goalkeepers.. Indeed, Sandra Toft played really well in the Championship, but doesn’t Cleopatre Darleux deserve being in the national team? And as you’ve already understood, I have no objection to Stine Oftedal among the playmakers.
Regarding left back I would disagree. Not Cristina Neagu exactly! As per right back, I wouldn’t name Katrin Klujber, who, however, worked the tournament off excellent. Kathrine Heindahl as a defending player? I would emphasize again, that I liked the Swedish players in defense more. I would single out Blohm or Lagerquist...
— Well, and to sum it all up, what impression is left in general? Shall we say, aftertaste…
— I would point out: it’s important and essential to communicate with handball people. Even if it wasn’t our holiday, but I consider the decision to go there as the right one. I was happy to see Dasha Dmitrieva. I met there the head coach of our men’s national team Velimir Petkovich. Also Tomas Hlavaty attended the tournament, who is working in Norwegian Vipers Kristiansand at the moment, we talked with him.
Of course, we all hope, that the situation with our participation will be solved as soon as possible. I would note that the vast majority of interlocutors, we met at the European Championship, told us that they missed us on the tournament!
Photo: the HFR press; aftonbladet.no, gp.se, vg.no, origo.hu