2010 European Championship: Notes and Predictions

The men’s 2010 European Championship throws off today in Austria. Here are some thoughts on the upcoming Championships.

[b]What’s at stake:[/b] Besides simply the desire to win the tournament, 3 nations will secure bids to the 2011 World Championships. As France (defending champion) and Sweden (host) have already qualified they won’t factor into the ranking of the top 3 teams. Assuming tournament favorite France makes the semifinals the other 3 teams that would join them would also qualify for the World Championships. If Sweden also does well 5th place could be a deciding match.
What the Bookmakers think: France is a very strong favorite to win the title with Denmark, Spain and Croatia seen as their strongest challengers.

Odds to win: (From www.bet365)
France 13/10
Denmark 5/1
Spain 6/1
Croatia 6/1
Poland 13/1
Germany 14/1
Serbia 24/1
Sweden 24/1
Norway 24/1
Iceland 24/1
Slovenia 39/1
Russia 59/1
Hungary 149/1
Czech Republic 299/1
Austria 499/1
Ukraine 499/1

[b]French coach channels Pat Riley:[/b] France is the reigning Olympic and World Champion, so there is now much talk of going for the “Triple” by adding reigning European Champion to their resume. French Coach, Claude Onesta, is using this goal as a way to motivate his players and to avoid complacency. For us old schoolers out there this sound a lot like LA Lakers coach Pat Riley, who in the late 1980’s coined the moniker “Three-peat” as part of their quest to win 3 titles in a row.
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-peat

[b]My Prediction: [/b]The three-peat didn’t work for the Lakers then and my hunch is that it somehow it also won’t work for the French now. On paper there’s no real reason for France not to win this tournament. They’ve still got the best players and they are reasonably healthy as they enter the tournament. Still something tells me that French angst and complacency will combine to result in a slip up in either the finale or semifinal. The team most likely to execute the slip up is Croatia which is surely more hungry and has a revenge motive from their loss to France at the WC last year in Zagreb. I think Vori and Duvnjak’s playing in the Bundesliga this season will make them more battle hardened. Another dangerous team will be Spain with naturalized citizen Arpad Sterbik now in the goal. A hot game from him could also prove France’s undoing. For an order of finish I’ll predict:
1) Croatia, 2) France, 3) Spain

[b]Potential Surprise Team:[/b] I think Russia is a better team than they’ve performed of late. They’ve got good players, Igropulo, in particular, and they are due to to have a better performance.
[b]Most likely to disappoint: [/b] With a backcourt minus Hens and Preiss, Germany might not even make it out of the first round. A safer prediction for sure is that we will see more Heiner Brand complaints that the influx of foreign players in the Bundesliga is hurting their national team.

[b]Time Shifting:[/b] With on demand streaming of the European Championships available, I will probably see very few if any games live. Most likely, I’ll start watching at around 8:00 PM here in Vegas. So, as I will be in my own little world for the next couple of weeks, don’t be looking for any up to the minute updates at THN. On top of that, my fear of finding out the score before I see matches will probably also impact other handball news related coverage. If you’re sending me an email make sure it includes no spoiler information.
THN (23 Jul 08): Extreme Time Shifting in the Desert or How I Hope to Watch Olympic Handball: http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.539

[b]European Championships Official Song: [/b] All I can say about this is that there’s no denying the simple fundamental truth that nothing quite says “Handball” like an Austrian guy with a trace of a British accent wearing a white skullcap singing a cover of a Neil Diamond song written as a homage to Caroline Kennedy. “Good times never seem so good… so good… good” Let the game begin!
Euro 2010 Website: Official Song Released.
DJ Otzi Official Site: http://www.djoetzi-music.de/ (Click the video link for the song. You gotta see it to appreciate it.)
“Sweet Caroline” Wikipedia Page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Caroline