Swiss debutants ready to join the EHF EURO party
Ahead of throw-off of the Women's EHF EURO 2022 in November, eurohandball.com is publishing a series presenting each of the 16 teams participating in the final tournament. Today: Switzerland.
For the first time, Switzerland have qualified for a Women’s EHF EURO. In Ljubljana, the team led by Danish head coach Martin Albertsen will face defending champions Norway, Hungary, and Croatia in what appears to be one of the strongest groups.
Switzerland went down 39:22 to Norway in their Golden League opener this week and will meet powerhouses Denmark and Netherlands this weekend for tough tests ahead of the EHF EURO.
Three questions ahead of the Women's EHF EURO 2022:
- How did Switzerland manage to qualify?
Ultimately, 6 March 2022 became a historic day for Swiss handball. After opponents Russia had been excluded from their qualification group following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, Switzerland ‘only’ needed to beat Lithuania to finish second and qualify for the final tournament. After they had won in Lithuania 36:30, they also won the decisive home game, despite the obvious pressure, easily 34:18.
“We made history,” President Pascal Jenny of the Swiss Handball Federation said. “This ticket to the EHF EURO is the result of long and hard work and our investment in women’s handball and mainly our youth programme, which now pays off.”
Years earlier, the Swiss federation had implemented a women’s academy and appointed Martin Albertsen as its chief, as the Dane had already coached the national team since 2018. Nowadays, seven players of the EHF EURO squad play in strong foreign competitions – either in Germany or Denmark – and significantly improved their performance, and the performance of the national team.
More good news: Switzerland have already qualified for EHF EURO 2024, which they will be co-hosting with Austria and Hungary.
- What are the expectations?
After the draw, Albertsen called the group “a Goliath task” for Switzerland.
“I have a plan with my team. Tactically we are already at a good level, now we have to improve physically and technically in order to maybe create a surprise,” said Albertsen, who has the highest respect for defending and record champions Norway – an opponent Switzerland lost 41:18 against in a qualifier four years ago.
“They will play for gold alongside Denmark and France,” said Albertsen, who expected opponents Hungary to receive wide support in Ljubjlana from their fans.
“But, of course, I am also looking forward to seeing many Swiss fans.”
- Who are the stars?
The most experienced player of the Swiss squad is goalkeeper Manuela Brütsch, all-time record holder with 153 games. With Lea Schüpbach, she was the all-Swiss goalkeeper duo at German side HSG Bad Wildungen before Schüpbach joined Metzingen.
Back court players Lisa Frey, Daphne Gautchi and Charlotte Kähr also play in the German Bundesliga, while top star and best scorer of the current squad, Viborg HK’s Kerstin Kündig, is one of two players from Danish clubs, alongside Chantal Wick (København).
Like Switzerland proved in their qualification campaign, some of their young guns from Swiss clubs have the ambition to surprise, like Xenia Hodel and 17-year-old Mia Emmenegger, both from Spono Eagles, or Tabea Schmid from Brühl.
The heart of the team: Kerstin Kündig
The 29-year-old centre back is the hub of the Swiss attack – either as classical playmaker or as shooter. Before the 2022/23 season, the three-time Swiss Player of the Year (2017, 2020, 2021) made a huge step in her career by leaving Thüringer HC and joining EHF European League finalists Viborg HK in Denmark, recommended by her national team coach, and former Viborg coach, Martin Albertsen.
“I have had some Danish coaches before, therefore it was my dream to play in the probably best league of the world. And I am sure, my style of playing fits perfectly to Denmark.”
In the crucial qualification match against Lithuania, Kündig was top scorer with 12 goals.
Did you know?
The biggest talent in Swiss handball has a famous last name: Tabea Schmid. But the 19-years-old line player of LC Brühl is not related to legend Andy Schmid, who played at two Men’s EHF EURO events – in 2006 and 2020. Another huge prospect of the team Daphne Gautschi, whose mother was also a Swiss international.
What the numbers say
Switzerland had come close to qualifying once before – for the 2018 event in France. After beating Ukraine twice, they needed a win against Croatia. But despite the one of the biggest crowd turnouts for a women’s handball game in the country, Switzerland had no chance and lost the match 33:16. Overall in the EHF EURO Qualifiers, Switzerland have recorded 16 wins, one draw, and 49 defeats.
EHF EURO participations (including 2022): 1