No panic, development and a united wish for Slovenia

02 Dec. 2023

No panic, development and a united wish for Slovenia

After opening their 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship campaign with a 30:24 win over Iceland, Slovenia now have one foot in the main round.

The six-goal win was impressive, with Slovenia missing influential captain Ana Gros, who is now with the squad in Norway and a number of injured key players who were ruled out pre-tournament, including Elizabeth Omoregie. 

However, Dragan Adzic’s side had to dig deep to beat Iceland, who came within one and a draw with the last quarter remaining.

“We could say it was a test, it was a challenge. It was a tough match as we expected,” says Slovenia’s Tjasa Stanko to the day after the result.

“It was physically tiring for the players that played almost all the match. Since we didn't have any preparation matches, it was expected that with this squad we would have more ups and downs than if we had of played some matches before with this squad. 

“But I trusted my team. We were confident enough to know what we have to do and were mentally prepared. You know, it was no panic, even when Iceland came to within one goal. 

“In the end, our team doesn't matter, which squad we are. It was a good start for us. They were a good opponent and we are happy with the result at the end.

“I'm feeling good. I'm really happy that we won our first match and I’m in a good state.”

Next up for Slovenia is Angola on Saturday, the African champions causing the Olympic champions France a big problem in their opener on Thursday with the Europeans keeping a 30:29 victory, thanks to the width of their post.

“They're a great team, have a great squad and also have a good rotation as they showed [against France],” explained Stanko about Angola.

“We stayed in the arena and watched the first half. France couldn't develop their game against them. They will be a very challenging opponent [but] we will do our analyses and see what we can do. 

“Since we played them in 2017, they progressed a lot in all the segments of their game and since they were a challenge to France, they will also be for us.

“They have good players,” she continued. “Some of them also played the Champions League so they have experience plus they also have some youngsters – they have a good combination.”

That 2017 match was Slovenia’s only win in the four they have played against so far in the world championship, 32:25 (15:15) and it was also Stanko’s first-ever senior women’s world championship experience. 

2023 will be the fourth already for the 26-year-old, so what has been her biggest memory so far?

“It's funny. Some days ago, we were counting the championships we have behind us and it’s been quite a lot since 2016. I played all of them (world and European championships) until today,” said the RK Krim Mercator left back.

“There were some challenges, but the one that I have the best memory of is definitely Japan 2019. It was something special for me. I think I showed that I developed really the most in this championship and, also, our squad played some good matches.

“At the 2017 IHF Women’s World Championship we were still finding our team, but in 2019 it was the first time that we had a team that actually we looked to the future with.”

The future. Stanko certainly has a lot of that to look forward to and is clear what the goal is for her and everyone in and around the team both at the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship and longer term.

“For us, our biggest wish and goal is that we would reach the place that leads us to Olympic qualification,” she explains.

“We don't have a full squad [here], but it doesn't matter. The players who are here will play and do their best. We have some youngsters that are coming to a championship for the first time and they can show themselves, so we will try to develop as a team, show good performances and go match-by-match and we hope we can reach our goal here.

“The Olympics is the wish that we all have together, it would be amazing,” she added. “We all train and do stuff every day to reach this kind of thing to play at the Olympic Games, but there are a lot of steps to make. 

“First, we need to play good and try to win all the matches we can. Then we can think about qualification.”