In the absence of stars, new talents shall riseArticle
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EHF EURO 2020 COUNTDOWN #14: Czech Republic have to replace some big names, but hope for team spirit and the goals of Marketa Jerabkova

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Some stars are missing due to different reasons, the team has not played together for more than 14 months and they have to face two semi-finalists of the 2019 World Championship in the preliminary round – the frame could be better for the Czech team prior to their seventh EHF EURO in history. But coach Jan Basny hopes for rising stars and some luck to make a sensation.

Who will replace the missing top stars?

Perennial top scorer Iveta Koresova (formerly known as Luzumova) is on maternity leave, Michaela Hrbkova – who counts the most international matches – is out due to a shoulder injury, experienced goalkeeper Lucie Satrapova just tore her cruciate ligament and top line player Petra Ticha is out. Czech coach Jan Basny has a lot of gaps to fill before the EHF EURO 2020.

Ultimately it is about the team, but in some positions, it is obvious that even a top team performance cannot replace the stars. In the goal, Petra Kudlackova is the new number one and on the back court, Marketa Jerabkova from German side Thüringer HC shall be the one to score Koresova’s goals.

How can the team cope with the long break?

As Czech Republic failed on their way to the World Championship 2019 in Japan (eliminated by Montenegro), their last official matches were the EHF EURO qualifiers in October 2019 against North Macedonia and Portugal. As the rest of the qualification was cancelled and the Czechs had to stop their training camp in October 2020 due to a Covid-19 case, the team had not even met this year until 20 November.

For the Cheb-Cup, their traditional preparation tournament, the Czechs could not find any opponents, as Switzerland had to cancel their participation.

The team have not played any international matches for 14 months – in contrast to all of their opponents in the preliminary round, who were part of the World Championship 2019. In addition, Hana Kvášová und Kristyna Mika have the problem that they play for clubs in the second French league, which was halted some weeks ago, so they have not been on court on a club level.

How high are the expectations to proceed?

At the EHF EURO 2018, the Czechs were drawn in a tougher group with Romania, Norway and Germany and did not win any points. Now, the opponents are Russia, Sweden and Spain – three teams that were among the top seven at the World Championship 2019 including the silver (Spain) and bronze medallists (Russia).

Czech Republic must leave one of them behind. If they have a chance, it might be possible against injury-struck Sweden, but in the end, the list of missing Czech players is even longer. Due to the lack of training and matches, the chances to proceed look quite limited.

Who will be the rising star?

Marketa Jerabkova hopes to play a role like in 2017, when she was seventh top scorer of the World Championship at the age of 21. Three years later and with the experience of playing on an international level at Erd in Hungary and now Thüringer HC, the Czech Handball Player of the Year 2020 hopes to rise further. Coming from the same city as Filip Jicha, the left back has handball in her genes – also proven by the fact that she had her debut in the women’s national team as early as 18.

Competition records:

European championships:
1994: 8th
2002: 8th
2004: 15th
2012: 12th
2016: 10th
2018: 15th

World championships:
As Czechoslovakia:
1957: 1st
1962: 3rd
1965: 4th
1973: 6th
1975: 6th
1978: 4th
1982: 5th
1986: 2nd
1993: 9th

As Czech Republic:
1995: 13th
1997: 13th
1999: 19th
2003: 15th
2013: 15th
2017: 8th

Olympic Games:
As Czechoslovakia:
1980: 5th
1988: 5th

TEXT: Björn Pazen