How time flies! It only seems like yesterday that the cream of Europe’s elite we packing to make the trip to Basel in Switzerland for the 2014 edition of the European Men’s and Women’s team championship. What a great event that proved to be as Denmark swept to double gold in both events. That 2014 edition was also a landmark tournament as the European U15 event ran alongside the main event which also proved to be an overwhelming success.
In just a few short days Europe’s elite will once again gather to represent their respective countries with the destination this year being Kazan in Russian, the cosmopolitan capital of the Tatarstan region. The Arena will be familiar to most of the athletes travelling as the Kazan Gymnastics Center will once again host a major European badminton event. Lest we forget the Kazan Gymnastics Center is the same arena that Carolina Marin won the European individual gold in 2014 in what was a milestone win for our European world champion.
Just as the Gymnastics centre is Kazan is a familiar arena once again we have familiar favourites to lift both the men’s and women’s titles. Denmark will once again be overwhelmingly tipped to retain both titles from Basel and just as Denmark are the favourites to lift the title we will also look to the handful of countries bidding to create a shock just as Germany did in 2012 lifting the women’s team event in Amsterdam.
Will strength in depth render Danish men unstoppable?
Denmark’s men (pictured above) have been unstoppable in the European men’s team championship since its inception in 2006. In the five staging’s of the tournament Poland, Germany and England have offered the biggest resistance to the Danes with an occasional flurry from Russia. Team Russia will look to use home advantage in Kazan this coming month and Ivanov and Sozonov will have fond memories of the arena, the venue in which they lifted their historic European individual men’s doubles title in 2014.
This of course is a team event and Russia will struggle with their squad depth and will be forced to utilise their European champions perhaps a tad more than they would so wish.
England are seeded two for the men’s title and even without the freshly retired Andy Ellis, the quintessential team player, the English will once again be asked to come up with a plan to at least make the Danish team sit up and think.
A team that has been inconspicuous by their absence in the list of medallists over the past decade has been France and like Denmark have a strength in depth across their squad albeit maybe at a rung on the ladder lower than Denmark. That being said the French will have the luxury of being able to utilise specialists in their given field thus limiting the effect of fatigue over the course of the long event. This could be crucial come the distribution of medals. Add in the Gade factor and France could be a decent bet for a medal.
We will know the French state of mind very early in the tournament as their group is effectively the group of death with both Sweden and Scotland looking to upset the seeding’s.
While all the seeded teams will look to secure that coveted top spot in the group thus availing of a favourable draw for the knockout stages the smaller nations will also be battling it out for one of the two quarter final runners up spot.
With this in mind we have to glance at the likes of Finland (pictured), bronze medallists from 2014 to possibly follow Denmark out of group 1 with the French group of death likely to offer some consolation to the runner up with a hard earned quarter final berth.
Women’s group 3 demanding all the attention
Yes, Denmark (main picture winning in 2014) are the favourites as they have always been not only in the men’s competition but also the women’s. Denmark will travel to Kazan with an altogether much more mature team than in 2014 as players such as Kjaersfeldt, Madsen, Blichfeldt and Dawall Jakobsen are now seasoned senior players.
Add into the mix the experience of Pedersen, Juhl, Thygesen, Fruergaard and Grebak the Danes have an outfit that they can pick and choose from depending on any given opposition on any given day.
What is most intriguing about the women’s event in Kazan is the outcome of group 3, the group of death with France, Germany and the unseeded English team battling it out for the possible two qualification spots on offer.
France have the across the board capabilities to beat any team but so much will hinge on the mind-set and fitness of Sashina Vinges Waran on her comeback from a dreadful injury sustained almost a year ago.
‘Sash’ has always been the ultimate team player and this event will surely suit her given her position as current French number two which will force the French to play her in that order in singles. A potential ace in the hand for France to compliment the likes of Lansac in singles, that is of course the injury she sustained in last weeks National Championships does not rule her out!
Germany are the seeded team in the group and look solid in doubles with players of the calibre of Goliszewski, Michels, Nelte and Herttrich leading the lines. Where the 2012 champions will suffer is down the order in singles in support of Schnaase. Watch out for Luise Heim who might be the player that sticks her head over the parapet in Kazan. The young German is certainly a fighter and will revel in the team environment once selected.
As for England, it is hard to imagine an English team not being seeded in a European event but history states that their record in this event has been less than impressive. Team England’s best result was back in 2006 where they were runners up to The Netherlands in the inaugural event. Since then England have not featured in the medals.
With the pressure off and with Germany and France fancied to advance this just might be team England’s opportunity to bounce back and create a mini upset.
Group two also offers a valid talking point ahead of the tournament. Spain are the seeded team but with Bulgaria(pictured) in the group, the bronze medallists from 2014, absolutely anything can happen. Truthfully a Bulgarian team with the Stoeva sisters, Zetchiri, Nedelcheva, Popstoikova and Mitsova should be odds on to at least defend their bronze medal. But only time will tell the real story.
As in the men’s event there is ample opportunity for some of Europe’s minnows to claim a quarter final berth with three spots available to the best runners up from the five groups. With the runners up from group two and three expected to advance the likes of Ireland, Estonia, Ukraine and Finland will be hoping to claim a tournament defining quarter final.
All the action gets underway in Kazan on the 16th February and Badminton Europe will be on hand providing a live stream from court one and daily coverage via social media and website.
To follow all the results live and view team line ups and draws for #EMWTC16 click HERE
To watch the live stream from court 1 from all sessions on all days click HERE
For live score and results from the European #EU15C competition running alongside the senior team events click HERE
Article by Mark Phelan for Badminton Europe. Photos courtesy of Badminton Photo