Eight "Respect Your Talent" alumni who can shine in EHF EURO 2024 qualifiers
The M20 EHF EURO 2022 provided a glimpse into the future of men's handball last July in Portugal, with some great handball and entertaining games featured in the schedule. With plenty of players ready to make the next step and feature in their respective senior teams, for many of them, it was the last hurrah at junior level.
For the players that stood out, the Player of the Match award was a ticket for entering the “Respect Your Talent” program, which promotes the holistic development of talented players' careers, on and off the handball court. In the programme's pioneering approach, the world's best handball players support the young guns with dedicated workshops and an insight into what it means to be the best.
With the new campaign for EHF EURO 2024 ready to start, several Respect Your Talent alumni are now featuring prominently in their senior sides, and we are ready to take a look into the ones who can shine at the highest level.
Francisco Costa and Martim Costa (Portugal)
It would be unfair to separate the two brothers, who made their national team debuts in the 2023 IHF Men's World Championship play-off against the Netherlands and will now probably be key players in Portugal's quest to qualify for EHF EURO 2024.
Much has already been written about them, but they have absolutely shone at every level in the past year, scoring freely for Sporting CP in the EHF European League Men. This season, Sporting progressed to the group phase with a 61:55 aggregate win against Bjerringbro-Silkeborg in qualification round 2, with the two backs Sporting's top scorers in the two games as they combined for 22 goals.
Moreover, the two brothers were also selected in M20 EHF EURO 2022 All-Star Team, having led Portugal to silver, after losing to Spain in the final, while right-back Francisco Costa was top scorer in the competition, with 58 goals.
Stefan Dodic and Milos Kos (Serbia)
Last July, Serbia enjoyed their best-ever finish at M20 EHF EURO 2022, with a superb bronze medal underlining their penchant for creating surprises when nobody believed they were going to do something special.
The performance was mainly due to a strong back line and an excellent defence. One player stood out above all in the competition, and it was Stefan Dodic, a centre-back who was touted to be the next best thing to come out of the Serbian school of handball.
Dodic dazzled with his immense skills and superb handball IQ, acting both as a finisher and as a creator, being named the MVP for M20 EHF EURO 2022, scoring 29 goals and setting up plenty of others for his teammates.
The one who benefitted the most was left-back Milos Kos, Serbia's top scorer at M20 EHF EURO 2022, with 44 goals in the competition. A very strong back with a superb shot, which can be unstoppable at times, Kos joins Dodic in Toni Gerona's line-up for the matches against Finland and Slovakia, two crucial games for the side ahead of the doubleheader against Norway.
Oli Mittun and Hakun West av Teigum (Faroe Islands)
The Faroe Islands have never qualified for EHF EURO, but they truly have a golden generation to rely on to finally make it into the top 24 countries in Europe. Their preliminary group might be difficult, with more experienced teams, like Austria, Romania, and Ukraine, but the Faroe Islands really have what it takes to make it far.
Backs Oli Mittun and Hakun West av Teigum will surely be one of the go-to players in these games and despite their lack of experience at senior level, their scoring prowess is nothing short of amazing, making it difficult for opponents to stop them.
Mittun, in particular, is one to watch for the future. At M20 EHF EURO, he shined, scoring 28 goals, despite being only 17. He unleashed something really special, though, at M18 EHF EURO in Montenegro, where he featured for his national team, becoming the top scorer, with 80 goals in seven .
Nikoloz Kalandadze (Georgia)
The Respect Your Talent program has also been featured intensely throughout the M20 and M18 EHF Championships, which took place this summer, with highly entertaining matches and interesting young players ready to make their mark.
One of them was Georgia's left-back, Nikoloz Kalandadze, who was named the MVP of the M20 EHF Championship in Bulgaria, where his national team finished seventh out of nine squads.
Despite being only 20 years old, Kalandadze shone and became the top goal scorer in the competition, with 76 goals, to underline his ability and strong shooting. These qualities have been earmarked by French side Chambery Savoie Mont Blanc Handball, where he has played for the past three years.
Kalandadze scored 12 goals in the qualification rounds of the EHF European League Men, yet Chambery failed to proceed to the group phase after a dramatic elimination against Fejer BAL-Veszprem.
Dominik Kuzmanovic (Croatia)
Croatia have a long list of talented goalkeepers who have shone over the years and Kuzmanovic has really impressed, with his development nothing short of special.
He has already been featured regularly for RK Nexe in the EHF European League Men yet aged 20 still has some fine tuning to do.
Kuzmanovic impressed throughout M20 EHF EURO 2022, dominating matches with 16 saves, like the one against Sweden, as his overall save tally rose to 70 at the end of the competition, from seven matches.