Flash quotes: group C media calls 11 January

Flash quotes: group C media calls 11 January

C4 9374
EHF / Courtney Gahan

MUNICH - Comments from Iceland head coach Snorri Guðjónsson (ISL), centre back Janus Smarason (ISL) and left back Aron Pálmarsson (ISL), Hungary head coach Chema Rodriguez (ESP), right back Dominik Mathe (HUN) and line player Adrián Sipos (HUN), Montenegro head coach Vlado Sola (CRO) and right wing Milos Vujovic (MNE) at media calls on Thursday.


Snorri Guðjónsson (ISL) – head coach

On the first game against Serbia:
“Full respect. They are a good team. A lot of good players. We have been trying to prepare good for them and I as the coach, we as a team, believe that we have a good plan for the game tomorrow, and we are quite optimistic that we can beat them.”

On the changes he has brought as coach:
“There are always some changes. But I’m not rebuilding a team — it’s not a question of that. Just maybe pushing some buttons; playing a little bit faster. We play aggressive handball, no question about it.

“For me as the new coach, the former coach [Gudmundur Gudmundsson] was my coach in the national team, so I know and I knew it before that I was taking over some good things. So it’s more just to adjust some little things and maybe play a little bit faster.”

On the lessons the team can take from the last EHF EURO:
“You always learn something. I think the players want to be more established — be more and often part of the top teams. But it’s a long tournament. It’s a lot of great teams.

“We are in a tough group, so we just try to stay focused and not think that much what will happen. In the beginning you just need to perform. We need to be ready in the first games, and if not we are on the way home, so our focus is just on the game tomorrow and on the group.” 

Janus Smarason (ISL) — centre back

On the feeling in the team before throw-off:
“I think we’re looking good. There’s a lot of excitement now. We’ve been waiting a long time for the tournament to start. Finally it’s here and we can’t wait to start.”

On the development of the Iceland team in the last two years:
“We’re ready to take one step further as a team. Our tempo and counter attacks should hopefully be improving. I think we have something to fetch there. Otherwise, just getting better every game as a team. Hopefully in the end it’s good enough.”

On playing the EURO in Germany, where so many in the squad play club handball:
“The German community, it’s the perfect handball environment, you could say. They know how to do it. They’ve been doing it for a long time, with the tradition. So it’s perfect to play such a big tournament with such wonderful fans.”

Aron Pálmarsson (ISL) — left back

On the feeling in the team before the first game:
“Really good, really good. We just arrived yesterday and it’s a good feeling in the team. We’ve come for the first time into the arena and we’re just focused and concentrated on Serbia obviously. No injuries, no excuses.”

On the hopes for the EHF EURO 2024:
“Our main goal is to get to the Olympic qualifiers. That’s the main thing that we want to achieve, but we also know that if we want to achieve that, we have to be maybe top six, eight, whatever. That’s the first goal that we set.

“Then of course we know, if we get through the group stage and then we have a new goal after that, so we’ll see then.”

On the developments in the teams since the EHF EURO 2022:
“We’re a little bit more experienced. Obviously a new coach, with some new ideas that we are liking very much. But of course we have to execute them on the court. With injuries and stuff like that, it seems like everybody’s really fit. We have a bigger squad than them before and I hope that the coach will use the whole squad.”

On the new ideas from coach Guðjónsson:
“He wants to run a little more; get the game a little bit faster. And then some new things in our offence that I will not share.”


Chema Rodriguez (ESP) – head coach

On the status of the team prior to throw-off:
“We have always a good feeling, all the teams, when you go to start and you haven’t played yet. Everyone has a good feeling. We prepared good for this championship – the matches that we’re going to play in this first phase. We will see. I think we are in a good way.”

On the first game, against Montenegro:
“It’s a difficult match. Always the first match, for every team, is so difficult because you have the nerves of the first match, this tension, everything. It’s so important because the tournament is so different if you start by winning or losing.

“It’s a really difficult match for us. We play against a team that is so hard, that runs a lot, defends hard, has really good players, a good coach. It will be so difficult for us, but I think for other teams it’s the same. We will do our best and try to win this match.”

On the main goal at the EURO:
“The first goal is try to pass the first phase, because we have, I think, the worst group in this European championship. The four teams, we are so hard. Every one of the four teams can pass to the next round. Everybody can beat everybody and everybody can lose against everybody.

“For us it’s so important to try to pass to another round. We have a lot of players with not too much experience. If we can play seven, eight, nine matches it's better than only playing three, to take this experience. Our first goal is this – to try to pass this group.”

On Hungary’s comparatively stronger World Championship performances versus EHF EURO results in recent years:
“Sometimes it depends which group you have in the first phase. If you have more luck in the draw or not. Sometimes, if you play the first match, you make mistakes in your first match, after it’s so difficult.

“This happened a little bit in our EURO in 2022, that we had, like now, a really difficult group with Iceland, the Netherlands and Portugal. It was so difficult for us. We lost the first match to the Netherlands and after we had so many problems to pass to the next phase.

“Last year, in the World Championship, we had a difficult group again, with Portugal, Iceland and Korea, but we had luck because we could pass with points and after we made a good second round. We could take this eighth position and take the Olympic qualification for this.

“Sometimes when you play the EURO, sometimes it’s more difficult than the World Championship. All the best national teams are here. Almost everybody can beat everybody, and this year is the same.”

Dominik Mathe (HUN) – right back

On the feeling in the team prior to throw-off:
“Feeling really good. It’s my first appearance after two years of injury. Last year [at the World Championship] I wasn’t able to be here, so I’m really happy to be here again with the team. We’re expecting some really hard the matches in the group, but we are looking forward to playing again.”

On the group opponents:
“Three really good teams, starting with Montenegro, who have so many players who play in the Bundesliga and also so many players who have played in Hungary as well. We really know this team.

“For sure, it will be the key against [Nebojsa] Simic, the goalkeeper, because I think he’s a really, really good goalkeeper. We have to fight against him and also we have to make a balance in our defence.

“The most important thing for us is the defence and the goalkeeper percentage, saving for us, then after we can make some fast breaks and in attack we can score some goals.”

On the development of the team since the last EHF EURO:
“[Since the] last EURO, two years ago, we have changed a lot. Now in our team is so many players who are really young — we have a really young team. I think the first match is really important for the young players to get their emotions and energy.

“For sure they will be a little bit afraid, like I was some years ago when I made my first appearance here. So we just have to help the young players and we can get a good score and I hope we can advance to the next round.”

On the absence of Roland Mikler, long-time key goalkeeper for Hungary:
“Everybody is getting older. Everybody has to at one time retire or get some rest from the national team. We have three good goalkeepers who are younger than him – two are really young and one is like, average age, so we just have to trust them and have their trust in us to get some saves for them.”

Adrián Sipos (HUN) – line player

On looking forward to the start of the championship:
“It’s always a nice feeling to come for a European or World Championship. Here in Germany, it’s not so new because I’m playing here. I’m very happy to be here. It’s a good place to organise a tournament like this because people love handball in this country. I really hope every game will be full.

On the overall goals at the EURO:
“Officially, we have the top 10 – to arrive in the top 10. I think it’s not that easy in this EURO.

“For me, it’s to win every game, one by one, because I don’t like to think too far. For me the short period is more important, I think. We need to go one by one, and if we can do this we can arrive where we want, or where the people want us. I don’t know what most people think about our team. I hope we can surprise them.”

On his thoughts on Montenegro, especially as a key defender for Hungary:
“I had other players who were my teammates before. They have good quality players. They have players playing here in Germany, in the Bundesliga, and also in good teams. They are a good team together and by themselves, they can surprise the big teams and we need to be careful of them. If we really think about our playing, our game, what we need to do, then we can stop them.”

On the other group opponents:
“People like to think far, but now the first and most important thing is the first game, against Montenegro. Of course we are a little bit thinking about the next games, but we need to be focused for the first game because if you lose the first game, then it’s a big problem.

“We need to win the first game and after we can have one day to think about Serbia, and after one day to think about Iceland. Every team is a good team I think, in our group, and it will be really hard and tough games. But we try to do our best and I think we are also a hard and tough team.”

On the importance of the first game, considering the lessons from the previous EHF EURO 2022:
“It’s really bad memories. I was thinking in that time that Netherlands are a really good team but we didn’t play that good, how we need to do, at home. Yesterday Germany showed how you need to start one game. We need to follow this, then if we do this then it will be really good. I hope everyone learned from that game and tomorrow we can change this start.”


Vlado Sola (CRO) - MNE coach

On the first game, versus Hungary:
“I think it will be very interesting match for the spectators. Both teams are good. Maybe Hungary have a better position on the ranking. I have a feeling that we are, in this group, underdogs in this group. We are ready to present us in the best way tomorrow evening.”

On Montenegro's overall goal at the EHF EURO 2024:
“Our goal is to go step by step. Tomorrow is Hungary and tomorrow we want to present ourselves in the best way, in the best light. To play the best handball we can play. To play all actions and all things we prepare during the preparation on the best way.

“I will be satisfied if we give all from us and that after the game we can walk with the head up. We give everything and we will see what that brings to us.”

On his experience as a player and what that brings in his first tournament as head coach:
“I was many times in big competitions as a player and also later as a coach – not the main coach; a coach in the staff. I have huge experience and my experience says to me that my players must be free in the head, so I don’t want to put pressure on them. I just want that they enjoy the handball. When you enjoy the handball, you play the best handball, so this is the recipe for me.”

Milos Vujovic (MNE) – left wing

On being ready for throw-off and playing the EHF EURO in Germany:
“I have spent here in Germany a lot of time. This is my four years that I’m playing here, and I’m feeling here like I’m at home. The feeling is great. My guys are feeling also OK and they are excited to play the first game.”

On the first game, against Hungary:
“The first game will be really, really tough, because Hungary is one great team. Hungary gives a lot of money for handball and they always, every year, are trying to reach the maximum. But I still see they have good times and bad times, so they are not always on the best way.

“I hope they will not be on that level tomorrow, we have a chance. We prepared ourselves good. We think, right now, just about that game, and we are looking for our chance and we will try to win.”

On the positive development in the last years, with the best EHF EURO performance in 2022 and the return to the World Championship in 2023:
“That was the best EURO championship, and that was the biggest success for Montenegro. This time we will play this tournament with a new coach, and that will be our first tournament with him, so we will see how will go all of the things.

“I have to say that in the preparation games we were not so satisfied because we lost some games. We try to fix it and then we will try to play tomorrow against Hungary our best and then we just try to win.”

On the overall goal at the EURO:
“The goal of the team is just to go in the main road, and then we will see how will go all of the things. But yes, to win the first two games, approximately, because I think that against Iceland it will be really hard. Iceland is a really, really good team, but I think that we will have a chance against Hungary and Serbia.”


Antonio Gerona (ESP) — SRB coach

On the feeling in the team ahead of the throw-off against Iceland:
“We are expecting to do our best in the tough game that we know will be tomorrow. This is like I said at the beginning, the summit of the three years and a half working with this group. For this generation, this is the tournament, this is the moment. Unfortunately, we arrived with some problems, with some injured players who didn’t reach their top form, but I’m sure the team cannot wait more for throw-off.” 

On the development since the last EHF EURO and the 2023 IHF World Championship:
“We proved many times that we are capable of beating it doesn’t matter who — even in a friendly game against Sweden or we beat Norway in one game. We beat also Slovenia a few times. We were so close to beating Germany last World Championship and Norway also. Even a bit after we beat Norway at home. But still, I would say we need some more continuity to be able to make something great in a big tournament. For this reason, OK, we did some steps ahead, but we need to make one really big step in this EURO if we want to achieve the goals that we think we can achieve.”

On his personal experience coaching different players and how that impacts what he sees and does with Serbia:
“I was impressed the first time I was with them. Our first two matches were with France. It was not the best start possible, but we beat them at home and made a draw in France. This was in 2021, three years ago. This gave us a lot of energy, a lot of positive support from everywhere. What I am more impressed with every time I’m with Serbia players is how proud they are to be with the t-shirt of their country. This is something that you cannot find — even that all people can say ‘OK this is important, for each country and each player.’ But how really passionate they are when they are coming for the national team is something that shocked me and something I really appreciate.” 

Dejan Milosavljev (SRB) - SRB goalkeeper 

On the first game, against Iceland:
“They have amazing superstar players in the team. I think they weren't lucky in the last European championship, but this time they come here to show what they do in the clubs, only to put the same on the field with the national team. We have great respect for these players, but we also want to show our quality. We think they have more stars, but we also have a good team and I hope it will be a very tough and good game tomorrow.”

On Iceland’s attack, from his perspective on the defensive end:
“The most powerful things about these players are playing one-against-one, and also the first wall in attack. For example, if we miss, they will have like 80 or 70 per cent to score. This is the main strength of the Iceland team. If we stop this, I hope we have a good chance to play a good game against them. All the world and all of Europe know all about these players. I can only say they’re amazing. I hope we play like a team and we don’t make easy mistakes tomorrow.”

On his personal feelings being at his first EHF EURO:
“I feel great. I can say this. And I’m very happy because this is my first European championship. I was two times at the World [Championship], but there was Corona and I was one time injured. I’m very happy and I hope I will do my best games in these next 14 days to help my team to have more comfort in the game, to maybe also make some mistakes and also to have more chances to attack.”

On the overall goal for Serbia at the EHF EURO:
“We go step by step. Our main goal is to go in the second group [main round], because also Hungary and Montenegro have very good teams. These are games you never know what can happen. Tomorrow our goal is to play good against Iceland and we will also see what will be tomorrow and what we prepare for the next games. But normally, it’s to think about the second group — nothing else in this moment. If we see how we play, we can think about the next steps.”

Latest news

More News