08.02.2018, 01:42
Goal machines Zdrahala and Kurtovic pick up first awards of 2018

NEWS REPORT: The EHF Player of the Month recognises the surprise package of EHF EURO 2018 and Bucharest’s sharp shooter against Györ

Goal machines Zdrahala and Kurtovic pick up first awards of 2018

Two outstanding goalscoring performances on the biggest stage have been justly rewarded in the EHF Player of Month, with January’s awards going to Ondrej Zdrahala for his EHF EURO 2018 exploits and Amanda Kurtovic for her role in the Women’s EHF Champions League’s clash of the titans.

After Iveta Luzumova was awarded EHF female player of the months November/December 2017, a fellow Czech, Ondrej Zdrahala, is the male title holder for January 2018.

“I did not even know about this award before, now I got it, really? Great,” the 34-years-old centre back was truly surprised when informed by eurohandball.com.

And Zdrahala, top scorer of the EHF EURO in Croatia with 56 goals, was even more surprised, when he recognised that he is the first male player from the Czech Republic to be awarded.

“Not even Filip Jicha?” was his answer, now hoping for more Czech surprises: “Ok, then let us see, which Czech will get the title in February,” Zdrahala added with a smile.

Zdrahala was a main factor for the best Czech performance since 1996, when they also finished sixth. “We had not expected to go that far and finish sixth. Our main goal for the EURO was to survive the preliminary round by beating Hungary.”

In that particular match, Zdrahala was on fire, scoring 14 goals to lead the Czechs to the main round - with two points on their account after their sensational 28:27 win against Olympic champions Denmark.

“Then we even had the chances to make it to the semi-final, but after being ahead for 50 minutes against Germany, we lost - otherwise we may have done even better, but in the end we are satisfied as we also rode our luck at times.”

“Ok, my goals were maybe the base for the success, but our result at Croatia was due to the team and our team spirit,” said Zdrahala, who added 13 more goals in the 5/6 placement match against Croatia (27:28) to become the third Czech to finish an EHF EURO final tournament as top scorer after his current national team coach Jan Filip (1998) and Filip Jicha (2010).

Now he his back at his club Otmar St. Gallen in Switzerland. “It feels good to be at home, with the family and the regular daily business of training and matches.

“It has been a long time since the Czech has been involved in a major tournament for that long. Though we are all really good friends, 30 days in hotels is a long time,” says Zdrahala, who had played for clubs in the Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, Denmark and Slovakia, before joining St. Gallen in 2016.

Zdrahala’s return to domestic league action was successful as he scored twice in a 30:27 win over Zurich on Sunday.

Kurtovic firing on all cylinders with CSM

Amanda Kurtovic picked the perfect occasion to record her highest goal tally of the season. The opening main round match between CSM Bucuresti and Györi Audi ETO KC was billed as the biggest match of the Women’s EHF Champions League so far and it saw Kurtovic and her teammates dominate in a 28:22 victory.

The Norwegian right back bagged eight goals in the match and it was the deciding factor in her getting the nod for this award.

”Of course, this award means a lot to me, and especially to get it for the second time in the same season is really great,” says Amanda Kurtovic who sees several factors as the explanation to her recent success in CSM Bucuresti.

“Our autumn was a bit of ups and downs due to the fact that we were many players in our team. After New Year, however, we have really managed to make our team click, this has resulted in improving performances from the team and I have also benefited from that.

“I have also felt successful with my first shots, and then is had basically just been a question of going on shooting,” says the 26-year-old, who moved from Larvik last summer.

“To me personally, moving to Bucharest from Larvik was obviously a big change, but it has helped me a lot to have my teammate from Larvik Marit Malm Frafjord with me here, while it has also been a help that there are so many other Scandinavians in the team.

“Finally, Helle Thomsen has meant a lot as head coach. She is a very dedicated coach who cares a lot about the small details in the game.

“She sets high demands, but that is what she should do, when you look at the team we have with more or less two world class players in each positions.

“Reaching the (Women´s EHF) FINAL4 in Budapest in May is obviously our first great objective this season, but we also realise that we have a long way to go before reaching that goal,” says Amanda Kurtovic who can enjoy being top of Group 1 together with her teammates after the first two matches of the main round.

EHF Player of the Month nominees

Ondrej Zdrahala (Otmar St.Gallen/CZE) - Winner
Jim Gottfridsson (SG Flensburg-Handewitt/SWE)
Ferran Sole (Fenix Toulouse HB/ESP)
Rasmus Lauge (SG Flensburg-Handewitt/DEN)
Mikael Appelgren (Rhein-Neckar Löwen/SWE)

Amanda Kurtovic (CSM Bucuresti/NOR) - Winner
Cristina Neagu (CSM Bucuresti/ROU)
Dragana Cvijic (HC Vardar/SRB)
Anna Vyakhireva (Rostov-Don/RUS)
Allison Pineau (Brest Bretagne/FRA)

TEXT: Björn Pazen, Peter Bruun / cor

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