The national handball coach, Paulo Jorge Pereira, set this Sunday as a “great objective” for Portugal to qualify for the main round of Euro2022, with a view to easier access to the 2023 World Cup.
“This is not lowering ambition. THE main round is very important, because it guarantees us not having to dispute the first play-off qualifying for the Mundial2023, which takes place in March, and brings us closer to that event. In other words, we are going to play this European with a little thinking about the World Cup as well”, said the coach, at a press conference, shortly after having released the provisional list of the 20 called up.
The Portuguese team will compete for the seventh time in the European Championship, co-organized by Hungary and Slovakia, between 13 and 30 January, with games scheduled in Group B of the preliminary round against the Hungarians, Iceland and the Netherlands, always in Budapest.
“After the first round, we will quickly establish another purpose and say that we want to improve our brand, which is sixth place [obtido em 2020]. If we want to achieve high performance, we have to be with a certain degree of dissatisfaction, knowing that the top four in the main round they qualify directly for the World Cup. If we stay in the top 12, we only go to the second play-off, which will be in April”, he stressed.
Portugal will dispute the fourth final phase in a row, after the European 2020, the Mundial2021 and the Tokyo2020 Olympic Games, but Paulo Jorge Pereira already aims to equal the “handful” of appearances in major tournaments achieved at the beginning of the century, with three Europeans (2000, 2002 and 2004) and two World Cups (2001 and 2003), the last of which was held on Portuguese soil.
“Basically, we’re always trying to find the best version of ourselves. The way we are training reminds me of the state in which we entered the 2020 European Championship. As soon as I got to the stage, I saw the whole team with great desire”, he noted.
Central Miguel Martins (Pick Szeged), pivot Tiago Rocha (Nancy), goalkeeper Gustavo Capdeville (Benfica) and full-back Alexandre Cavalcanti (Nantes) were included in the provisional 20-man squad for Euro2022, after having failed the first stage in Rio Maior, from December 27th to 30th, 2021, due to covid-19 infection.
This Sunday, Paulo Jorge Pereira’s team returned to work without limitations, in Rio Maior, after the new year, having available six players who line up abroad and seven who can debut in major competitions for national teams.
“I redid the initial call three times between December 20 and 22, 2021 and changed the training plan even more times. It was very tiring. One day at a time, but we’re working really well. We’re going with what we have to go and I’m sure you can count on us. I see these guys so eagerly and that little sparkle in their eyes”, he said.
Due to the unprecedented presence of the “quinas” team in the Olympic tournament, played in the summer of 2021, Humberto Gomes and Aléxis Borges left, by technical option, while Pedro Portela, Luís Frade, André Gomes and João Ferraz missed the 2022 European Championship due to injury.
The provisional lot will be reduced from 20 to 18 players until the trip to Switzerland, scheduled for January 6, where Portugal will dispute the 49th Edition of the Yellow Cup Tournament, in Winterthur, between the 7th and 9th, against Montenegro , Switzerland and Ukraine.