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Friday, June 15, 2012

GB Men Battle in Euro 2014

GREAT Britain Men made good use of their matches in the qualifying group of the 2014 European Championship, putting on three good performances against strong opposition as their preparations for this summer’s Olympic Games continued.

The team, who travelled to Italy for the three matches straight from a three-week training camp in Serbia, got stronger as they went on, and only narrowly lost their last two matches, against Greece and Italy.

Steven Larsson once again proved Great Britain’s top scorer with 18 goals over the three games, while Chris Mohr and Gawain Vincent both scored 13.

GB opened the tournament with a tough clash against eventual group winners Switzerland, and after a good first half which ended with GB only four goals behind at 12-16, they went down 21-38.

Against Greece the following day, GB proved stronger in the second half. But having been 13-21 down at the break they couldn’t quite claw their way back, but did win the second period 17-14 to narrow the deficit to 30-35.

Finally, GB took on Italy, the team they beat during their tournament in Loughborough last year. But on home turf the Italians proved a tough opponent.

Nevertheless, GB battled well and were not overawed. 11-14 down at half time, they matched their hosts goal for goal in the second half and ended up losing narrowly 26-29.

* GB men now enter a vital phase of their Olympic preparations.

Players have now returned home to their families for a short break where they will also focus on individual fitness programmes.

They return to Serbia on June 25 for more intensive training and will take on the Serbian Under-21 side on June 30, as well as playing the Hungarian national side on July 12.

From Serbia the team will head to the Team GB holding camp at Loughborough University on July 16 where they will join up with the GB Women’s team and athletes from other sports before heading to the Olympic Village on July 23. They will then have one last friendly match against Serbia on July 26 before the Olympic tournament begins.

* Photo by Michael Barnett

Thursday, June 14, 2012

GB Women in Spanish Test

GREAT Britain Women gained valuable experience of a different style of handball when they played in the Copa de les Naciones hosted by the Catalonia, Galacia and Basque Country handball federation last week.

GB played in the same event last year, but showed just how much they have improved by reaching the final of this year’s event. They lost by just one goal in a hotly-contested final against Galicia which put the local referees under a lot of pressure.

After arriving on Friday Great Britain played a friendly match against a local Second Division side which they easily won 35-23 to give themselves a boost ahead of the Tournament. The victory came despite several key players being rested, and gave others in the squad chance to shine.

Great Britain took on Catalunia in their opening match and won ten goals with Britt Goodwin and Lyn Byl playing particularly well.

After a strong start GB were 7-2 ahead in the final against Galicia with Marie Gerbron playing superbly, but their rivals fought back to level at half time.

The match continued to be closely fought, but in the end the local team won by one goal – however, GB took great heart from their performance.

“We had problems one on one in defence, and also missed too many 100 per cent chances,” said Head Coach Jesper Holmris. “It’s a massive disappointment that we couldn't win the tournament but it was really good for us to play the Spanish style of handball and was good preparation for us.”

GB captain Lynn McCafferty (pictured) was voted as best player of the tournament.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Serbian preparation for GB Men

GREAT Britain Men warmed up for their Euro 2014 qualifying matches this weekend with a three-week training camp in the Serbian mountains.

The tough preparations, which are also geared to getting the team ready for this summer’s Olympic Games in London, put the squad through some gruelling strength and conditioning drills under the watchful eye of coaches Dragan Djukic and Bill Baillie.

Based in Kopaonik, the team have played two training games against top Serbian League teams which gave them the chance to give all 22 players in the squad a run-out and stake their claim for a place in the 14-man squad for Euro 2014 and the Olympics.

"We have been based at the Serbian football federations new training centre at Stara Pazova since 2nd June,” said Baillie. “The facilities have been excellent and we have completed all the testing with the Serbian institute of Sport.

“We’re looking forward to the Euro 2014 qualification, this is a tough group with all four teams looking for a result.

"We have no injury concerns and will travel to Italy with 16 players, all players have been showing steady improvement and the staff and players are looking forward to the opener against Switzerland on the 8th June.”

"The training regime implemented in Serbia included long distance orienteering challenges of up to 15 kilometres through the forests and mountains. They also cut thick logs into set lengths, built transportable structures to be carried 500 metres up the mountain, and even tried local folk dancing!

Great Britain begin their Euro 2014 campaign on Friday with a match against Switzerland at 1745 local time. They then take on Greece at the same time on Saturday before playing hosts Italy at 2030 on Sunday.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

On-form GB battle well against Russia

GREAT Britain Women completed their Euro 2012 qualification campaign on a high, causing hosts Russia problems for much of the game in Togliatti before going down 31-22.

Russia are one of the top five handballing nations in the world and have been drawn to meet GB again in the Olympics, but Jesper Holmris and his side proved a match for them once again, despite having 3,000 partisan Russian fans packed into the arena.

GB only lost the home leg at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre by eight goals, and Russia were expected to put in a much-improved performance in their home match.

However, they were only 16-11 ahead at half time, and the GB defence continued to frustrate them and Russia only won by nine goals.

Marie Gerbron (pictured) top-scored for GB with six goals, while Holly Lam-Moores added four.

“It was a fantastic GB performance,” said Head Coach Jesper Holmris.

“It was a very motivated Russian team with all their best players available who started the game, but Sarah Hargreaves also had a great start to the game saving three 100 per cent chances which helped GB close the gap to 6-3.

“The rest of the first half we played really disciplined in attack and created good opportunities both against their 6:0 and 5:1 defence.

“With two minutes left of the first half and a man up we really had the chance to level the score but instead Russia scored twice and the first half ended 16-11.

“The second half was really positive in the way that we stuck to our game plan, we did not run out of steam and we scored more goals on fast breaks than Russia.

“All players contributed to a really strong GB performance against one of the best teams in the world.”