Despite counting one of the world’s most valuable attackers in their squad, FYR Macedonia have yet to achieve momentous success in a major international competition. Their best result at the EHF EURO was fifth in 2012, which was notable given that before that event, they had not even qualified for the final tournament since their debut in 1998.
On their subsequent EHF EURO campaigns, FYR Macedonia ranked 10th in 2014 then 11th at the most recent edition, in Poland in 2016.
FYR Macedonia’s hopes for Croatia are high – and they could ask for no better leader than the man who steered Vardar to the country’s first ever Champions League trophy in 2017. Raul Gonzalez, who also coaches VELUX EHF Champions League title holders HC Vardar, stepped into the role as head coach of the national team in April 2017.
FYR Macedonia’s are led on court by goal-scoring machine Kiril Lazarov, who holds multiple records and finished as top scorer of the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification Phase with a tally of 59.
17 January: Left back Velko Markoski (44 internationals/8 goals) replaces Filip Lazarov.
21 January: Left back Filip Lazarov (47 internationals/133 goals) replaces Nikola Markoski.
24 January: Left wing Goce Ojleski (27 internationals/21 goals) replaces Kiril Lazarov.
Remaining replacements: FYR Macedonia: 2 (0 in main round)
Many aspects of the Macedonian team’s game will evolve around team captain Kiril Lazarov. The 37-year-old left-handed sharpshooter has scored almost 1,300 goals in 160 national team appearances and is the most important part of FYR Macedonia’s attack.
Lazarov is the record holder in many prestigious European and World Championship categories, including most goals scored in a single European championship (61 at the EURO 2012) and most goals in a single World Championship (92 at the World Championship 2009).
In 2015, while playing for FC Barcelona Lassa, Lazarov became the first and only player in the history of the EHF Champions League to break the 1,000-goal barrier. He remains on top of the all-time top scorers’ rank for Europe’s premier competition.
After seven seasons spent playing in Spain, he moved to French side HBC Nantes in the summer of 2017.
After missing the World Championship 2017 in France, 35-year-old goalkeeper Borko Ristovski returns as first in his position for the national team. Ristovski made a solid comeback to the squad in EHF EURO 2018 Qualification and was key in the results that pushed FYR Macedonia to first place in Group 4.
Borko Ristovski, together with Kiril Lazarov and Filip Mirkulovski, is only the third player in the FYR Macedonia team to have passed more than 100 appearances. His experience between the posts will be crucial for the squads’ ambitions in Croatia.
In 2017/18, Ristovski is playing his second season with FC Barcelona Lassa, after transferring from German side Rhein-Neckar Löwen. There he works alongside talented Spain keeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas.
Over the last four years, former Spain national team player Raul Gonzalez has quickly become one of Macedonian handball’s favourites. He started coaching HC Vardar in 2014 and has since won all domestic league and Cup titles, two SEHA League trophies and the nation’s first ever EHF Champions League title, in 2016/17.
Gonzalez became head coach of the national team in early March 2017, succeeding Lino Cervar and thereafter leading FYR Macedonia to their best result ever in European qualification events. The team finished on top of Group 4 to secure their place at the EHF EURO in Croatia.
Gonzalez has been closely connected with some of FYR Macedonia’s biggest handball success stories and will now contest the first EHF EURO in his short coaching career.
Past Performance at EHF EURO events