As the 2015 EuroHockey Indoor season is kick started with the EuroHockey Indoor Junior Championships for men in Torun and Sveti, 16 Under 21 teams face each other over 3 days in each venue, 5 games a piece, a total of 40 games to find the EuroHockey Champions and try to take the title from the current Champions, Austria.
Much can change over the course of 2 years in Junior hockey and that makes this event so unique as European nations who find it difficult perhaps to field a full squad of outdoor hockey players of the same caliber, can really focus on their top players in Indoor hockey and if facilities and time allow, can hone in on the superb technical and tactical skills that are required for Indoor hockey.
A complete team sport, where rarely do you see ‘individual’ goals, where momentum builds from the defense and patience and cunning tactics to catch the opposition defenders unawares are key. That and the huge role that goal keepers play in Indoor hockey, their bravery, akin to complete personal disregard brings off incredible saves. Agility and core strength are key to surviving the 40 minute workout, keepers often losing kilos in weight to keep their side from conceding! The penalty corner routines tend to be game changers and when the injection, stop and strike are perfect it’s a hard task to defend! Not breaking the defensive line and losing a man is a very fine line between being quick off the blocks and simply too quick off the blocks…..
In 2013, the Final Ranking was Austria, Poland, Russia, Belarus, Sweden, Switzerland, As Sweden are not competing this year and were replaced by Ukraine, who finished 7th in Vienna, the line up this year is Austria, Poland, Russia, Belaurs, Switzerland, Ukraine, Portugal and Turkey.
Each team has their own targets and we were lucky enough to catch up with some of them over the past few days.
The current Champions Austria have been training weekly since November, and have participated in 2 international events in the lead up to the Tournament. They are here in Torun to defend their title and believe that they have the team to do that. Their ‘players to watch’ are Florian Steyrer, a high potential defender, Pit Rudofsky, one of our biggest talents in the offense. Oliver Binder is possobly their biggest talent at the moment with all round skills, close to unstoppable when he has the ball anywhere on the pitch. Their team for Leipzig has not yet been selected but there is no doubt that some of these guys will be pushing for places on the National team.
Team Turkey unfortunately are delayed arriving in Torun due to fog! But with Dutchman Bert Bunnick as their Technical Director they will arrive in good shape, having been promoted from the Championship II will be looking to consolidate their place at Championship level and stay in the Division.
The Portuguese team, also promoted from the Championship II have been training hard with internal Tournaments in Lisbon against local teams. On route to Torun they went to The Netherlands and played against Venlo and they have some warm up games scheduled in Torun v Pomorzanin Torun, Austria and Switzerland. Their initial aim is to stay in the Division. Two of their players are playing outside Portugal, Tiago and Miguel who are playing in Venlo Heren1, Holland, and Luis Tavares playing in Gladbacher THC, Germany.
Ukraine, having been warranted a place at Championship level, know that their task to stay in this Division is not an easy one and will require a real focused team effort.
The Russian team will only arrive here in Torun on Friday morning, hoping that their preparation in advance of the event will be sufficient to settle them in for their first game v Turkey tomorrow. To replicate their performance in Vienna and medal here in Torun is their target, but with games v hosts Poland at the end of Day one and then a final pool game against a well prepared Portuguese team on Saturday, they know that they will be replying heavily on their experienced club players to perform.
The Belarussian boys are no strangers to Championship level Indoor hockey, having finished 4th in Vienna, they will be looking to try and better that and medal here in Torun.
Switzerland have been preparing well with 2 camps and several test matches against the national team of Switzerland, which is in preparation to the IWC in Leipzig. Their first target here in Torun is to stay in the Division. With all their players based in Switzerland this has meant that they can train well together. Players to watch are Yves Morard, Gael Wyss-Chodat, and Elias Brönnimann. All three players are close to the National Men squad. Yves Morard and Gael Wyss-Chodat have been playing already with the teams several caps in the World League Round 1 and European Championship Indoor. All three are bring a lot of experience from their home club teams where there are playing an important role.
Finally team Poland have set their target for this home event high – to medal here in Torun. The coaches focus is very much on a team effort and not on any one player, so he hopes that this will ensure a good performance. As the squad for the World Cup is not yet finalised, there are potential places for players who perform well here in Torun, an added bonus but not a distration for this group of players who are determined to excel in front on an enthusastic crowd here in the city of Torun.
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Photograph: Austria lifting the Cup in Vienna 2013