Ricardo Vasconcelos – The head coach of Great Britain.
What is the importance of the upcoming championship?
This is a very important competition for our overall development as provides essential international exposure and experience to our players that otherwise would struggle to get. If, indeed, we aim to improve and raise our level, we need to compete against other nations in the same context and this competition answer those needs perfectly.
How do you rate the chances of your team at this championship?
It is very hard to establish any concrete goal in terms of results as we are facing a few constraints to have our strongest players available. This is, mostly, due to the fact that the date of the tournament does note take in account that, at this specific age (U24), most of the players are still studying and the University exams only finish around the 16th June. Furthermore, some of our strongest players are still involved in their respective leagues playoffs (Spain and France) that only finish on the 9th of June.
This is unfortunate and I believe that a more sensible approach is required when choosing the dates as, if the tournament started one week later those issues wouldn’t exist. This is a concern we have raised in 2017 (EN in Bulgaria) and, we hope will be heard for future occasions as, as Emerging Nations, all of us would welcome the opportunity of having all our players available to be able to compete in equal terms in this amazing competition. All of the above will make it harder for us to succeed, however we are focused and motivated to navigate those issues and make our nation proud.
How the preparation process is going on?
This is a continuous process that started in 2017 and won’t finish in 2019. We are in the middle of a 4 year cycle and the long term development of a competitive team is our main goal. This is demonstrated by the fact that, as in 2017, we will only have one player above 24. The same happened in January when the EHF Qualification Tournament was open age. Players and staff have been working extremely hard to use all the opportunities we get to develop, measure that development, review and realign goals and this is something we will continue to do.
Your prediction: The top 3 teams, which has the biggest chance to win the tournament.
I would have to say that Georgia is a strong favourite. Not only because of the home factor but also because they have a strong team that has been working together for a few years now. The fact that they’ve missed the qualification goal in January will bring extra pressure, but also extra motivation to succeed this time around. Cuba, depending on the group of players they select, should also be a very strong favourite as it is USA backed by the development promoted by all the support they are getting from IHF.
We would also have to take in account China depending on the goal they set, but I’m hoping fora few surprises from the less rated teams.