Renars Uscins to lead Germany on another gold mission
It is less than a year ago that Renars Uscins was the first to raise the trophy at the Men’s 19 European Championship in Croatia. Now, the Germany captain aims for another medal at the M20 EHF EURO 2022, which starts in Portugal on Thursday
Winning the European under-19 title in August 2021 makes Germany one of the teams to watch at the tournament in Portugal.
“Though we start as ‘defending champions,’ we are not under special pressure,” says Uscins, the right back who joined Bundesliga side TSV Hannover-Burgdorf last winter.
The son of former Latvian international and current national team coach Armands Uscins played an integral role for Germany last summer, when he was his team’s top scorer with 44 goals and was named in the All-star Team.
Head coach Martin Heuberger, who has steered German junior teams to four gold medals at World and European Championships since 2008, calls Uscins “one of our key players.”
“He is ambitious and has a very professional attitude on an off the court. He is self-reflective, knows how to deal with crucial situations,” Heuberger says.
Germany started their preparations for the M20 EHF EURO 2022 last Saturday. Due to the pandemic, the team had not played a single test match since October 2021 before finishing runners-up to Spain at the Airport Trophy in Switzerland last week.
“We have not played so many matches lately, but we know how to cope with challenges. With some more test matches, we would have been two, three steps further ahead,” Uscins says.
Only half of the team that downed Croatia 34:20 in the M19 EHF EURO final last year is part of the squad for the upcoming tournament in Portugal. Some are out because of injuries – like All-star goalkeeper David Späth – while others have been replaced.
“Still, we aim for a medal. Our first goal is making it to the main round, then everything can happen – like we saw at the EHF EURO last year,” Uscins says.
“Currently we feel a mix of fun and anticipation. The atmosphere in the team is quite relaxed, but focused. We have in mind that we want to win all matches, not that we have to win all matches. This strategy worked well in 2021, and we hope it will work well again.”
Germany seem favourites to advance from their preliminary group in Gondomar, with Italy, Serbia, and Iceland the opponents.
“We haven’t faced Italy and Serbia often, so we have to be highly aware if we want to carry some points to the main round,” Uscins says.
“We can improve from match to match. We need to adapt to each other quite quickly, like we did last year.”
Right before and during the M19 EHF EURO 2021, Germany were hit by many injuries, but still came away with the title.
“The width of our squad is our advantage. We have many players on top level,” head coach Heuberger says.
Currently we feel a mix of fun and anticipation. The atmosphere in the team is quite relaxed, but focused. We have in mind that we want to win all matches, not that we have to win all matches. This strategy worked well in 2021, and we hope it will work well again.
Uscins spent time at the youth academy of 2022 Bundesliga champions SCV Magdeburg before joining Bergischer HC to get more playing time.
He returned to Magdeburg but moved to Hannover last season, where he has developed into a key player in attack, judged by his goals and passes.
“I define my role as someone who always tries to make my teammates better. Though I am not a centre back, I try to be a leader and give my input to our match play,” Uscins says.
“And off the court, I try to communicate as much as I can with my teammates and the coaches, try to bring together those different types of players we have in our team.”
Heuberger also underlines his captain’s development since joining Hannover.
“He trains with the Bundesliga team and gets individual training sessions by former German national team coach Christian Prokop, which lift Renars on a higher level.”
Or, as the left-handed shooter himself puts it: “I learnt to play a different system of attacking, have a different tactical understanding and improved my skills, learning from my experienced teammates.”
The M20 EHF EURO marks not only another gold mission for Germany, it is also the build-up to the 2023 IHF Men’s Junior (U21) World Championship, which the country will co-host alongside Greece, with matches scheduled for Hannover, Magdeburg, and Berlin.
Portugal provides the perfect stage for Germany to get experience and promote their event.
all photos © 2021 kolektiff