Austria vs Estonia: A Glimpse of What a USA vs Austria Match Might Look Like

The U.S. may have an outsider’s chance against Austria at the World Championships. Check out how well another outsider, Estonia, fares against them today.

Austria hosts Estonia today at 8:25 PM (CET) / 2:25 PM (US ET) in an European Championship Qualification match. The match can be seen on ehfTV. (Requires free registration). The oddsmakers have Austria as a 6.5 goal favorite. (Bet MGM)

The U.S. has drawn France, Norway and Austria and without a doubt that’s some stiff competition. It’s pretty hard to imagine the U.S. having any chance whatsoever vs France and Norway, but one can at least speculate on the possibility of the U.S. putting up a decent fight vs Austria.

Austria’s Roster

Austria is a 2nd tier European handball nation that sometimes challenges 1st tier European nations. Case in point: hard fought matches vs Croatia and Spain on home soil this past January at the European Championships. And, at the other end, they are a nation that has slipped up against lesser opponents. Case in point: A 32-24 loss to Chile at the 2019 World Championships.

Further, with their best player, Nikola Bilyk, out due to injury, the team participating in Egypt will be a notch down in quality from the side that participated in the most recent tournaments. Their roster features a handful of players playing in Germany, most notably Robert Weber, and other countries, but the bulk of their team plays in Austria. The Austrian League is a solid competition, but it’s not as strong as the leagues in other nations.

Estonia: A European Outsider

Austria’s opponent, Estonia, is a European outsider that’s never had any real success in handball. They’ve never qualified for the World Championships or European Championships and I don’t think they’ve ever come close. Their roster is mostly composed of athletes playing in Estonia or for 2nd tier foreign pro teams in other countries. The notable exception is Mat Patrail who currently plays for Rhein-Necker in the German Bundesliga.

An Estonia – USA Comparison

While Estonia has had no real success against Europe’s best teams, they’ve shown their better than Europe’s minnows. To get to this stage of qualification they easily beat Luxembourg 69-53 on aggregate. This same Luxembourg team easily defeated Great Britain, Bulgaria and Ireland and, those 3 nations were all at the 2019 Emerging Nations Championship which the U.S. also participated in. The U.S. beat Ireland 37-32 and lost to Bulgaria, 38-35, but the U.S. was missing some key players from their roster. I’m pretty certain a full strength U.S. roster would have won those matches and probably convincingly.

If one compares where the top U.S. players are currently playing club handball to Estonia you’ll see some similarities in terms of the level of play. The U.S. has the Hueter brothers (Ian and Patrick) playing in the German 2nd Division, Abou Fofana playing in the French 2nd Division and Drew Donlin playing a supporting role for Leon in the Spanish Liga Asobal. And, then several players playing in lower divisions throughout Europe, including 3 athletes (Ty Reed, Rene Ingram and Nico Robinson) that are also getting some practice time with Champions League Clubs.

Overall, based on these common foe comparisons and club assignments I would say that the current U.S. squad probably is somewhere between Estonia and Luxembourg in quality. Of course, that’s just a paper assessment based on limited information. It will be interesting to see how Estonia fares today and how the U.S. can do in January.