01/07/2018

No Nagy, but Ljubo has grand plans for Hungary

EHF EURO TEAM COUNTDOWN #13: The great Laszlo Nagy resigned, but Hungary is trained by one of handball's most successful coaches.What can they achieve at EHF EURO 2018?

What can you achieve as a head coach if the time you have spent with your team hardly exceeds two weeks in total?

Ljubomir Vranjes was named Hungary head coach in summer last year. He had his team together in late October and is currently preparing them for the EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia – his first test match as Hungary coach ended with a 29:29 draw against his native Sweden in Jönköping on Saturday.

For Vranjes time is not the decisive factor. “I'm planning long-term. This is only the beginning, but the EURO is a chance to prove ourselves. I had the same time as any other coach to prepare the team.”

The roster

Compared to past championships, there are several household names missing in the 18 players Vranjes nominated for the final preparations, with Laszlo Nagy being arguably the biggest of them all.

The charismatic Veszprém right back retired in autumn after 199 internationals and 728 goals for Hungary. Goalkeeper Nandor Fazekas and line player Szabolcs Zubai, both still part of the team that reached the quarter-finals at the World Championship 2017, have bid farewell to national team handball. Furthermore, Gergely Harsanyi dropped from the team.

On the other hand, Vranjes has included some promising young players: goalie Adam Borbely, left back Richard Bodo, line player Bence Banhidi and left back Patrik Ligetvari are likely to have more responsibility than in the past.

And there are three debutants: Left wing Adam Fekete, right back Donat Bartók, whose father Csaba Bartok is a former Hungarian international, and right wing Adam Orszagh.

The attack

Without Nagy, Gabor Csaszar and Mate Lekai will be the leaders of the national team. The two centre backs have enjoyed a great season to date.

Lekai is the second best goal scorer in the VELUX EHF Champions League with 61 goals. Csaszar is the key player at Kadetten Schaffhausen. If Vranjes deems it fitting, both can play at the same time.

Nagy's vacant right back position is likely to be filled by Zsolt Balogh, while Richard Bodo is expected to score from nine metres and more on the left back.

The physically very strong Bence Banhidi is likely to play on the line. David Fekete is the only nominated left wing in the squad, but Adam Juhasz can play this position, too.

The defence

The defence is the key in Vranjes' game plan. “The key to success in a long tournament is a good defense and the goalkeepers. If you build a good defence, you can win medals,” he says.

Veszprém stalwart Timuzsin Schuch and Bence Banhidi are likely to take over key roles in defence, with Uros Vilovski playing an important part, too.

When it comes to the goalkeepers, Vranjes can rely on Roland Mikler and Adam Borbely who both played an excellent season so far. While Mikler has been in the spotlight at Veszprém for many years, Borbely has only shone recently after he joined Plock.

The coach

Ljubomir Vranjes is the third consecutive foreign coach at Hungary's helm – he preceded by Talant Dujshebaev and Xavi Sabate – but the first Swede. He was announced as head coach in summer 2017. His assistant is Björn Sätherström with whom he also coaches Telekom Veszprém.

It is the Vranjes' first EHF EURO. He only coached Serbia for two matches on an interim basis in the EHF EURO 2014 Qualification. However, as a player he has won the EHF EURO in 1998, 2000 and 2002 and the World Championship in 1999 with Sweden.

Outlook

With Denmark and Spain, Hungary face two of the best teams in Europe already in the preliminary round. They lost and drew against Denmark in the qualification to the EHF EURO 2018, but beat them in the Last 16 of the World Championship 2017. The last win against Spain in a competitive match dates back more than five years. Hence on paper it looks as if the final match against the Czech Republic on 17 January will be the decisive match for Hungary.

The 18 Hungarian players nominated for the Men's EHF EURO 2018

Goalkeepers: Ádám Borbély (Wisla Plock, Poland), Roland Mikler (Telekom Veszprém)
Right wings: Péter Hornyák (Balatonfüredi KSE), Ádám Országh (Dabas KC VSE)
Right backs: Gábot Ancsin (Telekom Veszprém), Zsolt Balogh (MOL-Pick Szeged), Donát Bartók (TBV Lemgo, Germany)
Centre backs: Gábor Császár (Kadetten Schaffhausen, Switzerland), Ádám Juhász (Grundfos Tatabánya), Máté Lékai (Telekom Veszprém)
Line players: Bence Bánhidi (MOL-Pick Szeged), Timuzsin Schuch (Telekom Veszprém), Szabolcs Szölössi (Grundfos Tatabánya), Uros Vilovski (Székelyudvarhelyi KC, Romania)
Left backs: Richárd Bodó (MOL-Pick Szeged), Iman Jamali (Telekom Veszprém), Patrik Ligetvári (Telekom Veszprém)
Left wing: Dávid Fekete (CYEB Budakalász)

written by Balazs Szalkai / ts