As usual, January was reserved for international handball. The big sport event took part in Croatia, and for more than 2 weeks, handball players were the most popular faces in Zagreb, Split, Porec and Varazdin. Surprisingly, Spain ended up taking the gold medal. Even more surprisingly it came in the final against Sweden. Not many had predicted a final without the World champions France, Olympic champions Denmark, or the motivated hosts Croatia. The tournament was yet another proof of the importance of the SEHA - Gazprom League in the world of handball. Not just because of the players that currently compete in the League, but also because of all the players who gained priceless experience of playing SEHA handball over the years. Many of our former players now play an important role on the biggest stage.
SEHA had 5 countries playing at the European championship. Some were more successful than others, but all 5 (Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Macedonia and Belarus) made it to the main round of the competition. Similarly, all teams ended their journey there. Additionally, we had a lot of players playing for different countries. Of course Canellas, Sterbik and Dani Dujshebaev were the happiest with the final outcome, as they took home the gold medal! Czech Republic surprised many by beating the likes of Denmark and Macedonia, but ultimately falling to Croatia in the 5th place match, equaling their best ever result with the 6th place.
From young emerging stars like Milan Jovanovic and Halil Jaganjac to established veterans like Igor Vori and Arpad Sterbik, SEHA - Gazprom League was well-represented at the EHF Euro 2018. Despite some good performances, particularly against Norway and Serbia, Croats were not good enough when it mattered the most. Losses against Sweden and France meant they did not reach the semi-final. Luka Cindric was one of the bright Croatian spots with 25 goals and 22 assists.
Raul Gonzalez and Macedonia finished 11th, after coming out on top in Group C with Germany, Slovenia and Montenegro, so overall they will feel they should have done better. Slovenia ended their campaign taking the 8th place, which is not nearly as good as their last World Cup result when they took the bronze medal. Celje PL’s duo Mlakar - Mackovsek combined for 31 goals in total, helping the team reach the main round.
Serbian main objective was to reach the main round, and they did it by beating Iceland. They finished below Macedonia, but also two spots below Belarus who came 10th. The Belarusians had a very hard task in the initial group B when they faced France and Norway. Meshkov’s Andrei Yurynok scored 24 goals in 6 matches and was an important piece of the puzzle.
SEHA - Gazprom League also had many goalkeepers participating. Everyone in Slovenia’s trio Skok, Lesjak and Kastelic all had his moments during the tournament. PPD Zagreb’s Urh Kastelic made 22 saves in only 2 appearances and had 41% success rate. Matevz Skok made 35 saves in 6 matches, and was amazing against Macedonia. Celje PL’s Urban Lesjak saved 3 penalties in the tournament and had 17 saves in total.
Even though he only took part in the semi-finals and the final, Arpad Sterbik made sure his contribution was massive. He saved 3 penalties in the semi-final clash against France in crucial moments, and was named man of the match in the final against Sweden. Sterbik made 8 saves and once again proved that he is one of the greatest goalkeeper of all time. Meshkov Brest had three goalkeepers: Matskevich, Mijatovic and Pesic all took part in the competition and so did Nexe’s Kristian Pilipovic who gained valuable experience by coming across teams like Norway and France. Here is the list of SEHA- Gazprom League’s top performers at the EHF EURO 2018:Luka Cindric (Vardar/Croatia) - 25 goals and 22 assistsZlatko Horvat (PPD Zagreb/Croatia) - 24 goals and 9/13 7m shots scoredAndrei Yurynok (Meshkov Brest/Belarus) - 24 goals and 6 assistsPavel Horak (Meshkov Brest/Czech Republic) - 23 goals and 12 assistsTomas Cip (Tatran Presov/Czech Republic) - 21 goalsIvan Cupic (Vardar/Croatia) - 19 goals and 13/15 7m shots scoredBorut Mackovsek (Celje PL/Slovenia) - 18 goals and 10 assistsStojanche Stoilov (Vardar/Macedonia) - 18 goals and 7 assistsIgor Karacic (Vardar/Croatia) - 16 goals and 24 assistsFilip Kuzmanovski - (Metalurg/Macedonia 15 goals and 5 assists
We hope you enjoyed the tournament, but there is no break from handball, as SEHA - Gazprom League is back on the 1st of February. We have a huge match in store; as Meshkov Brest host the unbeaten Vardar on Thursday at 17:00 CET!