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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.”

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