Russia aiming for another high-flying result in SlovakiaArticle
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PREVIEW: Russia are making no secrets of their ambitions at the Women’s 17 EHF EURO as they are targeting nothing less than a place in next week’s final

»EHF Euro Events Channel »2017 Women's News

Russia aiming for another high-flying result in Slovakia

Two years ago Russia took silver at the Women’s 17 EHF EURO after losing to Denmark in the final.

The event marked the first step in the careers of players like Antonina Skorobogatchenko, Karina Sabirova and Maria Dudina. Some of them reached the W19 EHF EURO final recently, or have already had the experience of playing for the senior national team.

So a new generation of Russian players will feature at the W17 EHF EURO in Slovakia, which starts Thursday and runs through 20 August, with a chance to prove that they can develop into stars of the future as well.

“Any position below the first place looks like a tragedy, the results of recent years tell us about it,” head coach Anatoly Skorobogatov says. “I would very much like to achieve the same with this team. Our goal is to go to the final. But it will not be so easy. The European Youth Olympic Festival showed that sometimes we can find trouble for ourselves from nowhere.”

Focus on teamwork and defence

The European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) in Györ, Hungary, became the main test for the Russian under-17 team before the EHF EURO. The team won all matches of the group stage but defeats by Romania and Denmark left Russia only in fourth place at the end.

Still, some players attracted attention. Pikalevo left back Elena Smirnova became the best scorer of the Russian team with 34 goals in five games, followed by Rostov-Don 2 playmaker Anastasia Duleva with 31.

Also, the tournament gave food for thought to coach Skorobogatov, who saw that the teamwork and the defensive game need extra focus.

“Nothing will work without defence. Therefore we are trying to build our team based on the defensive game,” he says. “Perhaps we cannot say that we have a strong attack or strong throws from the back line. Maybe we do not have bright individuals right now, but I believe that they will appear soon. Do not forget that only the whole team can win games.”

‘Any team can beat anyone’

In Group A of the preliminary round, Russia will face Germany (on Thursday),  Austria (Friday) and the Netherlands (Sunday). If they advance to the main round, Russia will meet the top-two teams from Group B, which includes Montenegro, Croatia, Hungary and Denmark.

All matches are streamed live on ehfTV.

“We saw Holland on the Olympic Festival. They are a very mobile team as always, every player is constantly moving. We know much less from Germany and Austria. Our first game will be against Germany, in fact, it is a dark horse,” says Skorobogatov, who watched several games of the Russians’ rival teams in Györ.

“All teams have about the same level,” he says. “There are no obvious favourites and outsiders, and any team can beat anyone.”

TEXT: Filipp Kolotushkin / ew / ts