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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Preview: GB v Portugal

GB Women face Portugal tonight as they return to the Liverpool ECHO Arena scene of one of their greatest victories nearly a year ago to the day when they beat Finland 24-23 in front of 2,000 passionate fans to confirm their two-leg 41-37 victory in the 2010 European Championship pre-qualification match.

That win was swiftly followed by what GB Head Coach Jesper Holmris said was one of the best results so far for his fledgling squad - a 26-18 victory over Portugal - at an invitational tournament in Spain last May.

GB have no injuries going into the match with the surroundings are well-known to the squad with north-west-born GB players Kathryn Fudge and Holly Lam-looking to perform particularly well in front of their friends and family.

Left-wingers Lam-Moores and the free-scoring Britt Goodwin will pose a threat up front for GB, whilst captain and playmaker Lynn McCafferty and line Lyn Byl, who plays for Bayer Leverkusen in Germany, will prove a tough, physical test for any players who dare to take them on.

Waiting for teams who do get through the GB defence will be GB goalkeeper Sarah Hargreaves who has been in fantastic form for her country – much to Finland’s annoyance in that double-header last year.

The Portuguese on the other had most recently lost all six of their EHF European Championship Group 1 qualification games but were unlucky to lose 28-25 away to Four Nation opponents Switzerland in a match that was tied at half time.

25-year-old right-back Ana Sousa top-scored for the Portuguese in that campaign and now plays for Mar Alicante in Spain having played in Slovakia, France and Italy.

More notably Portugal played former World Champions France last November in a friendly tournament, narrowly losing 30-25 which highlights how much of a threat they can be to the hosts here in Liverpool; however, you have to go back to June 2008 for their last competitive win when they beat Poland 35-24 in the 2008 Women’s European Championship Play-off.

With the exception of de Sousa and goalkeeper Daniela Pereira, who secured a summer move to Le Harve in France, all of the squad play in the Portuguese Seniores Femininos 1a Divisao Organização.

Players from Portuguese sides Madeira Andebol SAD and Colegio Joao de Barros make up the majority of the squad with 12 of the 19 named squad players. Maderia find themselves in EHF 2010/11 Women’s Cup Winners’ Cup action against S.P.E. Strovolos of Cyprus in October, whilst Colegio Joao de Barros of Pombal start their EHF Cup action against Le Harve in the same month. Players from Juvelis and Gil Eanes will also be competing in EHF European competition later on this year too.

GB will be looking to start off their Four Nations campaign with a strong performance against the Portuguese who themselves will be thinking the same. Whatever happens tonight both teams won’t have long until their next game – they’re both in action tomorrow at the ECHO Arena so why not come along and see for yourself?

Preview by Andrew McSteen
Pictures by Michele Davison

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