With a new Olympic cycle just starting, some “winds of change” can be felt in the Polish national team. Players like Bartosz Jurecki and Adam Wisniewski have called it an end to their international careers; some more are expected to follow.
The man to lead the change and build a new squad is Talant Dujshebaev who took over at the helm after the EHF EURO and led the team to the Olympic semi-finals at Rio 2016. It is expected that Dujshebaev will extend his contract until 2020 soon. When exactly? “It doesn’t matter,” says Dujshebaev. “We discussed everything and signing a new contract is just a formality.”
He is aware that the coming years will not be an easy period. In his wide plans up to fourty players are considered potential internationals for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, including seasoned veterans but also current junior players.
No matter this high number, Dujshebaev has earned the trust. “Talant is the coach who aims for what he wants. I’m sure everything will go in a good direction,” says back court ace Michal Jurecki.
He even admits: “To be honest, I was thinking a lot about finishing my career in the team. I will not hide that Talant’s decision to prolong his contract was one of the key factors for me to stay.”
Challenges far and close
While the Olympics are already on Talant’s mind, there are closer challenges already in sight, with the nearest being the first EHF EURO 2018 qualifiers against Serbia on 3 November and against Romania on 6 November.
Dujshebaev aims to gather 19 players at the end of October in Gdansk. The core of the team will be still be made up of the players who came 4th at Rio 2016, but besides the retired Jurecki and Wisniewski, Dujshebaev also has to replace injured Michal Jurecki, who is recovering from an ankle ligament surgery, and goalkeeper Marcin Wichary.
“I still feel some kind of strain because my feet had to remain stationary for weeks. But everything is going well, no delay, so I hope that around the middle of November I’ll be able to play my first match,” says Jurecki.
To add to Dusjhebaev’S worries, his internationals who play abroad, such as Michal Szyba, Andrzej Rojewski, Piotr Wyszomirski and Kamil Syprzak, will join the team at a later stage because of club duties.
It means that the coach will need to nominate one or two additional right backs and a goalkeeper. Likely to receive a call is Orlen Wisla Plock’s goalkeeper Adam Morawski, who has played an impressive season to date.
“All of this means that we don’t have the time to experiment,” says Dujsheabev. “The most important is that the boys remember what we played in July and August and prepare as well as it is possible during five training sessions.”
A new leader
In Jurecki’s absence Karol Bielecki, the top scorer of the recent Olympics, will be Poland’s leader. “He is and he has been an icon for a long time before Rio. Now, when we play without Michał Jurecki, he knows that he needs to do even more than his best,” says Dujshebaev.
The 48-year-old head coach pays respect to both Serbia and Romania.
“Both matches will be difficult. Serbia is always strong and able to fight against every team in the world. And against Romania we play on their territory, so of course it won’t be easy either.”