Dutch handball players began preparing for the European Championship without high expectations. National head coach Per Johansson’s side has given up a lot of quality and experience and is in a state of complete ignorance about his own chances more than a month before the final tournament kicks off.
“I can say very boldly that we are heading towards gold, but if I am realistic, it does not fit the current situation,” Angela Malsten frankly admits during one of Pappendale’s press moments. “Our level has just gone down.”
The 29-year-old has seen more and more of his experienced teammates disappear in the run-up to the European Championship, which kicks off in the Netherlands on November 5 in Macedonia. Pregnant players Louis Abing and Tess Wester were missing and injured Danek Snyder, among others.
“It’s admittedly we’ve given up a lot of experience and quality,” says Johansson, the national team coach, who included several young players in his pre-selection. “We are simply limited in our options. There is no doubt about that.”
“But I still think you always go to the tournament to win a medal,” the national coach continues. “I also hope they believe that when the tournament approaches. We have to find a way to play with this group to make it difficult for the higher level competitors.”
Holland Program at EC
- Saturday 5 November: Netherlands vs Romania
- Monday 7 November: North Macedonia – Netherlands
- Wednesday 9 November: France – Netherlands
Johansson hopes his brand will also operate at Orange
Johansson hopes to dominate the Dutch national team during the Golden League, a special training tournament where the Netherlands will meet Denmark, Norway and Switzerland in the first round. During exhibition matches, the Swede mainly focuses on the defensive battle.
Strong coverage is the brand of Johansson, who has had success with a number of previous employers: Romania’s CSM Bucuresti, the national teams of Sweden and Montenegro and Russian club Rostov-Don.
“I hope that during the Golden League everyone will see that we have taken defensive steps,” Johansson says. “That’s the most important thing in my opinion. We haven’t even discussed the switch. They’re really excellent at that.”
Malsten is excited about Johansson’s defensive plan. “With a strong defense and a good goalkeeper on your own, you can go really far in a handball. If we can really get an over-the-body mentality in it, the attack will come naturally.”
The European Championship begins on November 4 and will be held in North Macedonia, Slovenia and Montenegro. The Netherlands will complete the entire group stage in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia. The first round of the Gold League begins on Thursday.
Netherlands program in the Golden League (first round)
- Thursday, September 29: Denmark-Netherlands
- Saturday 1 October: Netherlands-Norway
- Sunday 2 October: Switzerland – Netherlands
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