Azerbaijan hope to succeed on home court
The long road to the Men’s EHF EURO 2026 in Denmark, Norway and Sweden starts this week with a four-team tournament in qualifiers phase 1. This short series presents all four participants. Part 1: Azerbaijan.
The team from Azerbaijan do not boast a successful record at Men’s EHF EURO qualification tournaments, but now they hope to make at least one step forward.
From Friday through Sunday (13-15 January), Azerbaijan will host the qualifiers phase 1 tournament in Baku, and their obvious goal is to progress to the next stage.
- previously participated in qualification for EHF EURO 1996, 2006 and 2022
- will host Cyprus, Great Britain and Malta in Baku this weekend
- coached by Iranian Nasser Salimi, who took over in the summer of 2022
- mainly rely on players from the domestic league
Most important question: will playing at home help the team?
After Nasser Salimi became head coach last year, Azerbaijan participated in the 2021 Islamic Solidarity Games in Konya, where they lost to Turkey (29:19) and Iran (42:20) and finished fifth.
Since then, they have been focusing on the EHF EURO 2026 qualification. In the past, Azerbaijan have never advanced from the opening stage at such tournaments, but now they will play in Baku, which may boost their chances to progress.
However, head coach Salimi plays down this factor: “They say that playing at home gives some advantage, but I don’t believe in it. I prefer to believe in hard work.”
How they rate themselves
Salimi clearly says that the goal is to advance to the next stage — and he believes that it is possible.
“I hope that we can take at least the second place and go through. We have a good team, we have been working hard, and we definitely have a chance,” he says.
“On paper, Cyprus are the favourites, while Great Britain beat us a few times in the past, and Malta have reinforced their squad with some good players. So this group is not easy, but I hope that we can get some good results.”
Under the spotlight: Oleg Georgiyevski
The 39-year-old centre back is the most experienced player in the national team. For many years, Georgiyevski has been playing abroad – after a spell at the Russian team Permskie Medvedi between 2010 and 2013, he moved to Türkiye and played for a number of local clubs before settling at Beykoz Belediyesi GSK.
The veteran is still a key figure in the Azerbaijan team, so a lot will depend on his form and playmaking abilities in the upcoming tournament.
What the numbers say
Azerbaijan have played 12 matches in the EHF EURO qualification tournaments, winning just twice – against Luxembourg in 1995 (25:21) and against Malta in 2019 (27:24). Besides, they drew with Luxembourg in 1995 (27:27), but lost all nine other encounters at this level.
Did you know?
Before taking over in Azerbaijan last year, Naser Salimi worked in his native Iran for many years. He coached the youth and junior national teams, and helped national team coach Manuel Montoya Fernandez during the 2022 Asian Men's Handball Championship, serving as an analyst and a manager.