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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

GB Women Slovenia Bound

AFTER completing their Euro 2010 qualifying matches with some strong performances against Austria and France, the Great Britain women’s handball squad come together again this week for a week-long training camp in Slovenia.

The GB team will play their host nation Slovenia three times as they begin their preparations for the Four Nations Tournament in Liverpool from September 23-25.

Strength and conditioning coach Lee Ottey is out in Slovenia with the squad to perform another round of tests on the players in a bid to further improve their fitness levels, having given them a strict programme to follow over the last few weeks.

GB Women Heading for Liverpool

TICKETS are now on sale for the Women’s Four Nations Tournament at the Echo Arena in Liverpool from September 23-25, where Great Britain will take on Portugal, Switzerland and Italy.

The team will be aiming to show once again just how much they have improved as they prepare for the 2012 Olympics in London in two years time.

GB will be hoping for a repeat of the result last time they were at the Echo Arena, when they beat Finland to secure their place in the 2010 European Championship qualification round.

Two matches a day will ensure there is always something to watch, but GB will be hoping to take victory in the event having already beaten Portugal this year in a tournament in Spain in May.

Tickets for the Four Nations Tournament are on sale from www.amiando.com/britishhandball

Monday, June 21, 2010

2012 Dreams: Chris Mohr Reports

GB Handball ace Chris Mohr is featured in a blog on the London 2012 website this week - click here to read his thoughts.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Handball Set to Make 2012 Best Games Ever

THE man who will run the Olympic handball competition at the London Games in 2012 has spoken of his confidence that the sport will flourish afterwards.

Alex Gavrilovic, who was also the Handball Manager at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, is meeting up regularly with British Handball officials to help ensure that the 2012 games will prove to be the most successful ever in terms of leaving a legacy for the host nation.

“I didn’t come to London wanting to make some pale copy of Sydney,” he said. “I want this to be a unique London experience, and these games should be remembered for being something special and something very British.

“I felt that I could contribute something to this organisation in terms of experience of bringing a largely unknown sport to the public, and we did that successfully in Sydney and I’m confident we can do that in London too.”

The key to a successful legacy will be the readiness of England Handball and Scotland Handball to cope with a large influx of enquiries from people wanting to play handball, and Gavrilovic added: “British Handball is more advanced than Australian Handball but they don’t have the same structure in terms of separate home nations.

“The real challenge here will be what happens post games, the readiness of the governing bodies for the influx of interest from people who have seen the sport.

“I don’t believe that Australia took advantage of that as well as they could’ve, and we’re determined not to repeat those mistakes.

“Having the venues set up and ready early give us a good opportunity to test and prepare for the Olympics to be what I hope will be the best ever. That’s our aim.

“There needs to be a strong English speaking Western nation playing handball. America have had a go at this with Atlanta and Los Angeles before that, we’ve had a go in Sydney and now it’s Britain’s turn. And if it can be a success it will pull other nations along, and help across the Commonwealth too.”

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Jubilant GB Secure First Win on Home Soil

GREAT Britain Men’s handball team have secured their first international victory on home soil in thrilling style, beating Bulgaria 33-32 in the final match of their Euro 2012 campaign at Crystal Palace, London, on Saturday afternoon.

A last-second goal from man of the match Steven Larsson gave GB the lead for the first time in the match, and proved enough to spark jubilant scenes at a packed Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.

Larsson top-scored with 13 goals for GB, launching powerful shot after powerful shot past the Bulgarian goalkeeper to keep GB in the match.

But it was far from a one-man performance from GB.

Chris Mohr (pictured) was also in fine form, and although he didn’t repeat his 11-goal feat from Friday, he still bagged six goals and caused real problems for the Bulgarian defence with the sheer speed of his shooting catching Bulgaria on the hop.

Winger Mark Hawkins - who missed their Estonia defeat the previous day - came back into the squad after shrugging off his shoulder injury, and scored six goals from out wide.

The match ended in controversial style, with GB celebrating the win before the referees insisted that the match resumed for another two seconds.

After Bulgarian officials and players had been removed from the court, their long-range shot was well wide of the mark, and the arena erupted into jubilant scenes with friends, family and complete strangers cheering the tearful and relieved squad.

“I’m so happy,” said Mark Hawkins afterwards. “We’ve worked so hard for this, everybody has so much today.

“The fighting spirit was unbelievable, every one of us gave so much. There were a few moments where it looked hard, but we never doubted ourselves and kept fighting.”

And captain Ciaran Williams added: “I’m massively proud, it’s almost too hard to put into words. It’s been a long time coming since I joined the programme at the start four years ago.

“To get our first win in front of friends, family and supporters means so much, and I’m so happy to have done this, for the fans just as much as for the team.”

And Head Coach Dragan Djukic was equally jubilant with the result. “I’m very proud of the team, because we’ve started to believe in ourselves. I’m sure that we will not stop winning now!

“We’ve always had hope of a first win, but we’ve also been realistic about what it would take. Now we have it, we know how much it means to us all."

Some pictures from the match are available here. Many more to follow later.

Euro 2012: Estonia v Cyprus

ESTONIA secured their place in the next round of the 2012 European Championship when they beat Cyprus 34-28 at Crystal Palace national Sports Centre in London on Saturday afternoon.

Cyprus were the only team who could deny Estonia their place in the next round of the competition, but the Estonians led for much of the game and proved too potent in attack.

Once again their top-scorer was Mait Patrail who bagged nine goals, but left-back Janar Magi was not far behind with seven goals.

Cyprus left-back Giorgios Papakyprianou scored 11 goals, but it was not enough to catch Estonia who were taller, stronger and more inventive in attack.

18-13 ahead at half time, Estonia built on that lead to win by six. Every time Cyprus pulled back the lead, Estonia responded with ease.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Euro 2012: Mohr Scores 11 as GB Lose out to Estonia

GREAT Britain’s hopes of progressing in the 2012 European Championship ended on Friday night when they lost out 26-35 to Estonia at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in London.

The GB boys battled hard and held their opponents at bay for long periods, but lacked the power to consistently break through the Estonian defence.

Playmaker Chris Mohr (pictured) was in fine form, finishing the game with 11 goals after digging through some tough tackles and picking out the corners of the goal. And he combined well with Robin Garnham - until the pivot received his third two-minute suspension and took no further part in the game.

Estonia’s talented 22-year-old Mait Patrail was their star man, scoring six goals by using his large frame and every one of his 199 centimetres to full advantage.

GB tried shot after shot but found Estonian goalkeeper Marius Aleksejev in fine form, not only making saves but twice racing out of the D and catching GB fast breaks and giving his team-mates scoring opportunities which they rarely passed up.
Afterwards, Head coach Dragan Djukic said: “We’re disappointed to lose, but we played well - better than we have before. Estonia are the top team in this group so we knew it would be tough.

“We missed our chance yesterday against Cyprus, and we lacked a bit of self-confidence. But our target has always been to win our first official game, and we will be trying to do that tomorrow.

“We fought until the last moment today, which is really important. We need more games and more experience and then we will begin to win more games.

“It is a long road in front of us, but every step is important. When you look at our performance in the World Championship in Finland in January, our progress in just a few months is clear.”

Some pictures from the match are available to view here. Many more to be added later.

Euro 2012: GB Ready for Estonia Challenge

Great Britain are preparing to take on Estonia in a must-win match for their Euro 2012 ambitions.

Victory for GB will throw the group wide open, while defeat will spell the end of their hopes of progressing in the 2012 European Championship.

Left back Huw Goodwin comes into the starting 14 players in place of left winger Mark Hawkins (pictured), who injured his shoulder while scoring the last of his four goals in their clash with Cyprus on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Estonia field the same team as secured a convincing opening victory over Bulgaria.

Euro 2012: Bulgaria and Cyprus draw

BULGARIA and Cyprus tied 29-29 in their Euro 2012 clash at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in London on Friday afternoon, leaving the fate of the group wide open.

Bulgaria had led for long periods, but couldn’t shake off dogged Cyprus who were chasing their second win in the competition.

Cyprus only led the clash once for a short period, although they were level with Bulgaria for long periods and always hit back after conceding.

Bulgaria dashed into an early 5-1 lead after just seven minutes, but Cyprus battled back following a timeout, and levelled at 8-8 ten minutes later.

Nip and tuck all the way, Bulgaria’s 14-12 lead was cancelled out in the final minute and a half of the first period which ended at 14-14.

But although Cyprus battled well they never led again, although they levelled several times with their Bulgarian rivals.

Centre back Yordan Mihaylov and right winger Borislav Borisov were Bulgaria’s top scorers with six goals each, while for Cyprus, three players scored five goals - pivot Vasilis Demosthenous (pictured), centre back Marios Efstathiades and left back Giorgios Stylianou.

The draw means Cyprus lead the group with three points, but Estonia are on two points and will be eager to go clear with a win over Great Britain on Friday evening’s match.

However, GB will also fancy their chances of a win, and are out for revenge following a painful defeat to Cyprus on Thursday night.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Euro 2012: GB go Down Fighting Against Cyprus

GREAT Britain Men went down to Cyprus in their opening Euro 2012 clash, losing 16-24 despite dominating the match for long periods.

GB competed for most of the game, but suffered a period midway through the second half where they failed to score for 13 minutes, while Cyprus netted five times to consolidate what had previously been a fragile lead.

Two goals in the opening two minutes from left winger Mark Hawkins gave GB an emphatic start which they continued into the match. Steven Larsson found his shooting arm from the top of the circle, the right back finishing as GB’s top-scorer with four goals.

But the real reason behind GB’s 9-7 lead at the break was the form of goalkeeper Jesper Parker, who made several instinctive saves to keep Cyprus at bay.

“We’re obviously disappointed, as we played well in the first half and thought we could’ve gone on to win it,” said captain Ciaran Williams, pictured. “But we need to learn how to see a game out and finish the job off.

“Our defence was good and to keep Cyprus to seven goals in the first half was great. But there were too many errors in attack and technical faults.

“But this is a tournament, and we’ve got two more games to go and we’re still in the hunt for our first competitive victory.”

Some pictures from GB v Cyprus are available to view here

Many more pictures will be added tomorrow.

Euro 2012: Estonia Draw First Blood

ESTONIA secured a comfortable 31-18 victory over Bulgaria in the opening match of the 2012 European Championships qualifying tournament at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in London on Thursday afternoon.

Leading 16-9 at half time, Estonia controlled the game well, led chiefly by their tall left back Mait Patrail, who is just a centimetre short of two metres.

At times is seemed as if all the Estonia players were taller than their Bulgarian rivals, and while that may not strictly be true they certainly towered above them across the court.

Bulgaria showed glimpses of inventive attacking, but too few and far between to trouble Estonia, who notched up the points with ease and nearly always punished Bulgarian goals with fast breaks.

Patrail scored seven goals for the Estonians, while 21-year-old right back Dener Jaanimaa, right winger Kaupo Liiva and left back Janar Magi scored four apiece.

For Bulgaria, centre back Yordan Mihaylov top-scored with five goals, while left back Chavdar Chernev and left back Dimitar Petkov both scored four.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Euro 2012: GB Men Ready for Biggest Test Yet

GREAT Britain Men will go into their Euro 2012 campaign this week virtually at full strength and raring to go after finishing a tough preparation phase.

The final squad of 16 players are now at Crystal Palace, undergoing light training twice a day ahead of their opening match against Cyprus on Thursday evening.

“The mood in the camp is really upbeat,” said assistant coach Bill Baillie. “The players all realise that it’s a big test for British Handball as a whole, but we want them to focus on their game and take it one step at a time.”

Left wing John Pearce is the only injury casualty, with a broken metatarsal and chipped bone forcing him out for three weeks. But pivot Chris McDermott (pictured) has recovered from his groin strain, while a knee injury picked up in training by right back Steven Larsson is not as serious as first thought and he looks set to play.

GB secured a morale-boosting victory over Belgium in their preparation phase two weeks ago, but lost the second clash against the Belgians, as well as two practice matches in Luxembourg.

Nevertheless, Baillie was keen to put those results into context, and added: “We weren’t at full strength for those games with several players unavailable, and we were trying out a few different things.

“We’ve worked on several things in training, but now we’re all relieved that the preparation phase is over and the players can’t wait to get going.

“We’re taking it one game at a time, starting with Cyprus. It’s crucial to win your first game, otherwise you’re playing catch-up, but both teams will want to do that.

“It’s a really close group - all the teams are coming here with realistic hopes of winning the group, so there will be no easy wins for anyone.

“Estonia are perhaps one of the best teams, they’re young and have been together for a while now and already they have an average of more than 50 international caps. We’re only a little younger, and our two most experienced players - Chris McDermott and Seb Prieto - will have 25 caps on Saturday if they play all these games.

“But we’ve got enough information on Estonia and if we’re at our best and they are below par, then we’ve got a chance.

“Qualification is the ultimate aim, but we’re under no illusions how hard it will be.”

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Euro 2012: GB Men Get Top Class Preparation

WITH little more than a week until their first international matches on home soil, the Great Britain men’s handball team have been finalising their preparations for the 2012 European Championships.

The squad arrived in Britain on Sunday following their morale-boosting 26-24 victory over hosts Belgium in a friendly match last week, and travelled to Loughborough University to use their top-class training facilities.

The win over Belgium was GB’s first over European opposition for around four years, and although they lost out in the second fixture the following day it still provided a real benchmark of the progress being made by the squad.

Trailing 14-10 at half time, GB hit back hard after the break and were rarely behind. They levelled at 14-14 within three minutes of the second half, and continued to control the match right up to the whistle.

With the regime put in place by Head Coach Dragan Djukic now taking shape, GB men battled for the full 60 minutes and fully deserved their victory.

Afterwards, captain Ciaran Williams said: “I can’t tell you how amazing it feels, there were a few wet eyes after the game and rightly so. Our time is coming, and soon everyone will see it!”

“This 2012 European Championship Qualification tournament is without doubt the most important tournament me and the current GB Men's squad have participated in.

“I personally think that this is the best GB team we have ever had, and we have a superb chance of qualifying and sending a message out to the handball world that we are on track with our ultimate goal of being competitive come the London Olympics in 2012.”

Day tickets include two matches, with the winner of the group at the end of the tournament going forward to the next stage of the competition against Hungary, Macedonia and Bosnia Herzegovina.

For more information go to www.BritishHandball.com or for tickets go to www.amiando.com/britishhandball