The younger Austrian women’s team faces its first test in the second stage of the World Cup qualifiers. After several absences, several players without international experience will have to come forward to attack against Estonia on Thursday (7:00pm) in Bregenz and on Sunday (6:40pm) in Tallinn.
“It will be two tough matches,” team manager Ales Bagović told a news conference in Bregenz. Two months into a disappointing European Championship (20th place), the Slovenian faces the task of preparing the newly formed team in a few training sessions for the task against the Estonians, who have never qualified for a major event. Ten out of 17 have played fewer than ten international matches. “The goal is still clear, we want to make progress,” stressed Bagović, whose team will face a much bigger obstacle in the final play-off with Iceland, if they go up on April 13-16. Until then, a match will be held in Bregenz.
For Bagovic, it is also a kind of glimpse into the future. Sooner or later, 36-year-old Janko Bozovic will end his career, just as pivotal Fabian Bosch did after the European Championship. There are also signs of farewell to Gerald Zener (33), who took over the player-coach position at Chois. Youngsters like Michael Miskovic, Moritz Mittendorfer (both in the backcourt) and Konstantin Mostel (goal) are now getting the chance. Once again, Kiel star Nikola Bilek should take the helm, who, according to Bagovic, should move increasingly from the left backcourt to the center.
A third of the players have a connection to Vorarlberg
The last international match of the national handball team was in Vorarlberg in 2019, when the national team beat two-time world champion Spain in Dornbirn. More than a third of the players in the team against Estonia are related to Vorarlberg, some of them play here and some come from here. Harder Lukas Herburger talks about a completely open starting position due to several failures. “This time we are not as favourite as we were in the last duel against Estonia, but what you must not forget is that we are playing at home and in my opinion the handball fans in the country are the best in Austria,” Herberger said.
Bregenz goalkeeper Ralph Patrick Housley is looking forward to the match in the usual hall. “I am very happy that we are not playing in Vienna, but at home in the country again and I am really excited for the fans. You experience for yourself in the derby matches or in the home matches in Bregenz that the hall is almost always sold out and I know the fans support us until the last minute when we show up fighting spirit,” says Häusle, looking forward to the match at home.
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