Handball team shows valiant effort in EURO CUP debut

Take note – story published 3 years ago

The Latvian men's handball team made their debut at the European Championship final tournament in Trondheim, Norway on January 9 with a 22:33 loss against last year's champion Spain, but Latvian player Dainis Krištopāns was named player of the match, according to LETA news agency on January 9.

Despite some mistakes on defense, the Latvian side managed to maintain a slight lead for most of the first period. Goalie Edgars Kukša made a total of eight saves, while leading scorer Krištopāns made five goals. At 24 minutes Spaniard Jorge Maqueda received a red card after a foul against Nils Kreicbergs, but by the end of the first period Spain had solidified their lead. Just before the buzzer Latvian Uvis Strazdiņš managed to sink a 119mph buzzer-beater goal.



After too many turnovers and undefended goals Spain quickly managed to take a seven-point lead, but despite the advantage Spaniard Viran Morros also received a red card after fouling Krištopāns and was subsequently disqualified. The Latvian team attempted to change things up by playing with an additional player and without a goalie, but after several points on an empty goal the Spaniards extended their lead, winning 33:22.

"I am happy that we could play our first ever EHF EURO match against a team like Spain," Latvian head coach Armand Uščins said in the match report on the official tournament website.

"We started well, our goalkeeper saved brilliantly, but then Spain punished all of our mistakes. But still I am happy how we fought,” said Uščins.

Krištopāns was awarded player of the match for making seven out of ten attempted goals. Aivis Jurdžs made five goals, and Māris Veršakovs and Ingars Dude each made three. All of the Spaniards on the court managed to score, with Fernandez topping the chart with five points. Both Strazdiņš' and Krištopāns' goals were featured 1st and 4th in top 5 goals of the day, with Krištopāns' goal also being named shot of the day.

Meanwhile in the other Group C game Germany defeated the Netherlands with an almost identical score of 34:23. Watch Latvia play their next game against the Netherlands on January 11 at 5 p.m. Latvian time. The final group game will be against Germany on January 13. The team that wins the EURO CUP will win a spot at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

As previously reported, Latvian team captain Ingars Dude admits there is still work to do, but the main focus will be on quickly returning to defensive positions and not letting opponents gain easy points. He said they need to feel the rhythm of the game, as ever mistake could cost a goal.

Latvian handball legend Andris Gulbis says his main focus is on beating the Netherlands. "I hope that the boys won't break and will see the matches honorably through to the end," said Gulbis. 

The top two teams from group A-F will make it to the next round, which will consist of two groups of six teams. The top two teams of each of those groups will make it to the semi-final, and the final will be held in Stockholm on January 26.

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