11.01.2018, 11:10
Three line players who will draw attention in Croatia

PLAYERS TO LOOK OUT FOR #7: Two are very experienced, one is still young, but Bjarte Myrhol, Julen Aguinagalde and Nicolas Tournat are all line players on the highest international level

Three line players who will draw attention in Croatia

While Norway’s Bjarte Myrhol and Spain’s Julen Aguinagalde are both 35, Nicolas Tournat is still only 23.

What all three have in common, however, is their excellence on the line player position.

They all are crucial to their respective clubs and national teams, and they are likely to draw a lot of attention at the Men’s EHF EURO 2018 in Croatia.

Bjarte Myrhol, Norway

He was the best line player in the world in 2017 – at least according to the online portal Handball Planet’s panel of journalists and experts.

“I got the news when I was having breakfast, and at first, I simply continued my meal. It was not until I started to think about it that I realised how big it actually was,” Myrhol said.

The 35-year-old Norwegian international, who is currently playing for VELUX EHF Champions League participants Skjern Håndbold from Denmark, has definitely been in the spotlights the past 12 months, in the Champions League as well as in the Danish league.

And for Norway, he played a big part in their sensational silver-medal journey at the World Championship 2017.

The former Rhein-Neckar Löwen pivot, who overcame testicular cancer and got back to the same high level he had before, seems to always get either a goal or a penalty each time he receives the ball.

With his size and his physical strength, he is good at making himself available for passes from his teammates as well as making room for the back court players to either shoot or break through.

The fact that he is also a great defender obviously also speaks in his favour.

Julen Aguinagalde, Spain

You do not have to be in your mid-thirties to be a great line player, but apparently it helps: Aguinagalde is of the same age as Myrhol.

He is 1.94 metre tall, just like his Norwegian colleague, but he weighs 113 kg compared to Myrhol’s 96. His physical strength and his ability to benefit from it, is definitely one of Aguinagalde’s assets.

The experienced PGE Vive Kielce player is extremely good at liberating himself from even the strongest and most experienced defenders.

In fact, he seems to sweep them off his shoulders as if they were flies. Once he has received the ball, it is virtually impossible for any defence to stop him from shooting and usually scoring.

An old saying goes that you should never let a line player shoot a penalty.

Roland Mikler, however, can tell a different story.

The Hungarian national team goalkeeper had to pick the ball out of his net at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 in the Lanxess Arena in Cologne on 29 May 2016 after Aguinagalde scored the decisive penalty for Kielce against Telekom Veszprém.

Aguinagalde may not be the prime penalty shooter for Spain, but he is a crucial factor to Spain’s medal ambitions in Croatia.

Nicolas Tournat, France

Despite being only 23, Nicolas Tournat plays his position with the skills and experience of a veteran.

Just like Myrhol and Aguinagalde, he is big and strong like a line player on top level has to be.

His height (two meters) and weight (116 kg) tell a big part of the story about a line player who is not easy to contain for any defence in the world.

PGE Vive Kielce have noticed this long ago and the Polish side got Tournat’s signature on a three-year contract valid from the summer of 2020.

Until then, he will keep representing HBC Nantes, which he has been doing since 2012.

Tournat has played an important part in Nantes’ recent European success, and his 36 goals so far have helped the French side to second place in VELUX EHF Champions League Group A.

With Cédric Sorhaindo and Luka Karabatic also in his squad, French coach Didier Dinard, who used to be a great line player himself, is not exactly short of pivots.

Still, Tournat is expected to be one of the key factors to the French trophy quest in Croatia.

TEXT: Peter Bruun / br

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