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03/12/2016

Pregnant or injured, retired or not nominated – the top five off the court

FEATURE: A small number of important stars will miss the EHF EURO in Sweden

Photo: Svein Andre Svendsen

Prior to all major competitions, the count of absentees starts: Who will miss the event due to whatever?

The Women’s EHF EURO 2016 sees a mixture of injuries, pregnancies and decisions made by coaches (not to nominate) or by players (to retire).

Here are the five most important players that will miss the EHF EURO 2016:

Heide Loke (Norway)

In autumn, the world, EURO and Olympic Champion, EHF Champions League winner and 2011 World Handball Player of the Year announced that she is pregnant.

In defence and attack, Loke is one of the most complete female handball players globally, with a fighting spirit and physical power like no other.

Thus, Norwegian coach Thorir Hergeirsson has to adapt his tactics and give more responsibility to players like Marit Malm Frafjord – the ‘runners-up’ in the line player position in the defending champions’ squad.

Katarina Bulatovic (Montenegro)

Four years ago, she was the national hero when a plane landed at Podgorica Airport holding the EHF EURO trophy and the winning team.

Montenegro had become European champions and four-time Champions League winner Bulatovic was the leader of the pack. Now, she is out of Dragan Adzic’s squad.

The coach of the only team that has beaten Norway in a EURO final since 2004 has started a huge transition, bringing in fresh blood – and leaving out Bulatovic and some more experienced stars of the ‘golden generation’.

Linnea Torstensson (Sweden)

Like Bulatovic, Linnea Torstensson is neither injured nor pregnant – coach Henrik Signell did not nominate the left back, who was awarded MVP of the EHF EURO 2010 and became Champions League winner with CSM Bucuresti in May.

Instead Signell counts on younger players, and Swedish fans were in a state of surprise or shock, when the EURO squad was announced. Torstensson is a physically strong core in the Swedish defence, and employs that same strength in attack.

Polina Kuznetsova (Russia)

Like Heidi Loke, left wing Kuznetsova was part of the Rio 2016 All-star Team. In contrast to Loke, the sister of Olympic MVP Anna Vyakhireva returned home with a gold medal.

Unfortunately for the 2012 EURO All-star Team left wing, she was ruled out by an injury in the final stages of preparation for Sweden. Thus, Russian mastermind Evgeny Trefilov will miss an efficient weapon for counter attacks.

Zsuzsanna Tomori (Hungary)

Four years ago, when Hungary ended their eight-year EURO silverware drought by winning the bronze medal in Belgrade, Zsuzsanna Tomori was the top scorer for the team.

She went on to become EHF Champions League top scorer – but then a series of severe injuries hit the right-handed sharpshooter for Györ and Hungary.

During the 2015 World Championship, Tomori tore her ACL and did not play the rest of the season.

Now another knee injury has ruled her out for Sweden, combined with more cases that make the current situation in the Hungary squad a tough one for new coach Kim Rasmussen.

Besides these ‘Top 5’, several other stars will not be on court in Sweden for different reasons and motives:

Poland team captain Karolina Kudlacz-Gloc is suffering from a back injury and will miss the Women's EHF EURO. 

German left back Nadja Nadgornaja is pregnant, and as Shenia Minevskaja and Xenia Smits are ruled out by injuries, this position in the squad has been hit hard.

Hungary have a huge list of missing players: Tomori, Szandra Zacsik, Szabina Mayer, Dorina Korsos, Melinda Szikora and Aniko Kovacsics are out due to injuries. Zita Szucsanszki and Krisztina Triscsuk are both in question, though they could join the team at some stage during the EURO.

In other news on the medical bulletin, Romania will miss experienced wing Valentina Ardean-Elisei, while Denmark will notice the absence of goalkeeper Rikke Poulsen. Romania will also miss Aurelia Bradeanu, as she has retired from the national team.

A EURO event right after the Olympic Games will always miss stars due to newly-built squads and retirements. Three members of Russia’s Olympic-winning squad, including left back Irina Bliznova, have stopped playing for the national team, while Ekaterina Ilina and Maya Petrova were not nominated by Trefilov.

Montenegro will have their re-start after the disappointing Rio experience, without players such as Jovanka Radicevic, Sonja Barjaktarovic and Andjela Bulatovic.

Norwegian coach Thorir Hergeirsson left out two cornerstones of previously successful teams: goalkeeper and four-time Champions League winner Katrine Lunde and current Champions League top scorer and five-time EURO champion Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth Koren.

There will therefore be many new faces at the EURO, and it will be thrilling to see the fresh wave of stars coming through.

written by Bjorn Pazen / cg