Poland face uphill task without top trio
The Women's EHF EURO 2020 countdown series starts with Poland, who are set to go into the tournament with a new head coach, but without a trio of top stars.
With Karolina Kudlacz-Gloc, Monika Kobylinska and Kinga Achruk all missing, Arne Senstad is facing a tough challenge in his first major tournament on the Poland bench.
An experienced wing and a strong goalkeeper carry the hopes of Poland, who will face Norway, Germany and Romania in group D.
Poland have usually performed better in World Championships, finishing fourth in 2013 and 2015, but they failed to make the top 10 in any EHF EURO event since 2014.
Three questions before the start of the EHF EURO 2020:
- What is the impact of new coach Arne Senstad?
Arne Senstad took over from Leszek Krowicki after Poland failed to qualify for the World Championship 2019. The Norwegian coach had a perfect start with five victories, including two wins in EHF EURO 2020 Qualifiers against Ukraine and Faroe Islands. But the global pandemic denied Senstad the opportunity to play any more matches and work with the team in order to implement his team tactics. However, Poland are set to play friendlies against EHF EURO participants Serbia and Russia in Koszalin, which might give Senstad the chance to increase his impact on the team.
- Can the team compensate for the lack of experience?
Without their top stars Karolina Kudlacz-Gloc (shoulder injury), Monika Kobylinska (torn ligaments) and Kinga Achruk (maternity leave), Poland will have to replace not only their most experienced players, but also their whole backcourt axis. This trio was key to Poland’s run to the semi-finals in their World Championship campaigns in 2013 and 2015. At EHF EURO 2020, the team will lack their natural leadership. As the Polish league is not among the leading domestic competitions internationally and the country hasn’t seen a recent rise in the number of top talents coming through, the current team might struggle to compensate for the loss of experience.
- What are Poland’s chances to make it to the main round?
At EHF EURO 2016, when Karolina Kuzdlacz-Gloc was also missing, Poland faced Germany in their final game of the preliminary round, a true ‘final’ as the winner would advance, but Poland lost 23:22. History could repeat itself in December as Poland and Germany are set to play the final group against each other once again, after they both have played against favourites Norway and Romania. “The EHF EURO 2020 will be a huge challenge for our players, and I hope that we can use the tournament as a great motivation and experience,” Senstad says.
Under the spotlight: Joanna Drabik
The 38-year-old wing Kinga Grzyb will be a leading force thanks to her experience, while goalkeeper Adriana Placzek is supposed to strengthen the defence at her third EHF EURO tournament. But another player could rise to the occasion: line player Joanna Drabik. Having started her career at KSS Kielce (2011-13) and MKS Lublin (2013-18), Drabik moved abroad to Siófok KC in 2018. She had two successful seasons, helping the Hungarian club win the EHF Cup 2018/19, before returning to Lublin and joining Zaglebie this year. The added international experience makes Drabik a key player for Poland in both defence and attack.
EHF EURO participations (including 2020): 7
5th place: 1998
8th place: 2006
Semi-finals: 2013, 2015 (both 4th place)
5th place: 1973
6th place: 1978
7th place: 1957, 1962, 1975