The Men’s EHF EURO 2018 brings together Europe’s biggest handball stars.
But it also provides an opportunity to a range of young talents to shine at one of the sport’s marquee competitions.
Sweden’s Simon Jeppsson, Iceland’s Janus Smarason and France’s Yanis Lenne have already appeared on the international scene but are expected to show even more of their qualities than they have done already.
Simon Jeppsson, Sweden
SG Flensburg-Handewitt landed a true scoop when they signed young Jeppsson ahead of the current season.
The 22-year-old left back, who joined from HF Lugi Lund in Sweden, has already become a reinforcement for the North German club in the VELUX EHF Champions League as well as in the Bundesliga.
Jeppsson is perfectly making use of his length (2.03 metre) to give his shots as much height as well as power. And his 104 kilos enable him to be not afraid of any physical confrontation with defenders.
The world of handball would probably have seen much more of Jeppsson if had had not torn his ACL in 2014, which put his career on hold for a while.
Meanwhile he is back at full strength, and he has shown what that means.
Jeppsson showed flashes of his huge talent at the World Championship 2017 and he will be eager to continue his way up in Croatia, where he will be sharing the left back position with two other huge talents, Lukas Nilsson from THW Kiel and Philip Henningsson from IFK Kristianstad.
But Jeppsson will get his fair share of court time when Sweden take on the Croatian hosts as well as Serbia and Nordic rivals Iceland in Split.
Janus Smarason, Iceland
Smarason, who turned 23 on New Year’s Day, is still relatively young for a top-level playmaker, but he has proved that his age is no handicap.
Enjoying his breakthrough at the World Championship 2017 in France a year ago, he caught the eye of Danish top club Aalborg Handbold, which beat several other clubs in Europe in their quest for Smarason’s signature right after the championship.
With his speed, his ability to quickly change course as well as his perceptiveness, he has played an important role in Aalborg’s title winning run in the Danish league last season.
He continued to be a key player at Aalborg in the Danish league as well as in the VELUX EHF Champions League and helped Iceland qualify for the EHF EURO.
Smarason already spoke Danish fluently before joining the club a year ago. In fact, he won the Danish Under-16 championship with Aarhus already in 2011.
Yanis Lenne, France
When you play for FC Barcelona, you are expected to be a good player. The 21-year-old Yanis Lenne certainly is a good player.
Often seen as the biggest talent on the right wing position in France, he joined Barcelona from French league club Sélestat AHB last summer. And he has already proven that the Catalan club have made a good move by signing him.
He is also a valuable contribution to the French national team.
Having made his debut for Les Experts in November 2016, he was part of the French team which won the home World Championship last year.
Winning a title was no new experience to young Lenne, though.
He was part of the French team that won the EHF M18 EURO in 2014 and the under-19 world title the following year.
Luc Abalo from Paris Saint-Germain Handball is still considered the greatest French star in the right wing position, but Lenne is not far behind anymore.
And with Abalo struggling with injuries in recent years, Lenne will be an important player for national coach Didier Dinard in Croatia.
Lenne’s speed and his accuracy from the wing will come in useful for France in their efforts to take back the title.