MOSCOW, January 12. /TASS/. The Russian national handball team must do its utmost and display the will to win at the 2021 World Men’s Handball Championship, which kicks off on Thursday in Egypt, Sergei Shishkarev, the president of the Russian Handball Federation (RHF), told TASS on Tuesday.
Due to earlier imposed sanctions by WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency) against Russian sports, the national team will be called at the championship as the Russian Handball Federation Team and instead of the Russian national flag it will be competing under the RHF flag (a white cloth with the RHF logo).
"I expect to see a new team of athletes, who are ready to fight together for the common cause and to develop the spirit," Shishkarev said in an interview with TASS. "While our national women’s team is the team of the top level, which is playing for the victory at the Olympic Games and for medals at the World Championships, our men’s handball was left far behind the previous national teams."
"It is crucially important to play baring the teeth, to show some spine, to display the will and the desire to win, to play as a single team," he continued.
"The situation at the tournament is completely unpredictable and it is still unclear in what shape our opponents will be," Shishkarev said. "We are starving for the successful performance of our national team. We want to see them playing on the court like real men and then there will be perhaps enough of strength and skills in them."
"There are no great expectations and it will be a good result if we finish the championship in the Top 10," the RHF president added.
The 2021 IHF World Men's Handball Championship is scheduled to be held in Egypt between January 13 and 31. The 27th event hosted by the International Handball Federation (IHF) will be the first Handball Championship with 32 teams instead of 24.
The Russian national team is participating in this World Championship after it had been granted a wildcard and is playing in Group H of the Preliminary Round alongside with the teams from Slovenia, Belarus and South Korea.
Russia will begin its journey at the World Championship on January 14 with a match against Belarus and RHF President Shishkarev considers the Belarusian team as the most dangerous opponent in the Preliminary Round.
"I believe that the most dangerous opponent during the Preliminary Round are our friends from Belarus," Shishkarev stated. "They have assumed a new course and this team is accomplished, many players from this team are playing for top European clubs. They display an outstanding teamwork and had more time to prepare for the championship."
At the 2020 European Handball Championship, which was co-hosted by Austria, Norway and Sweden, the Russian team led by ex-Coach Eduard Koksharov finished 22nd in the final overall standings of the national teams. Major reshuffles in the coaching staff followed and Koksharov left his post.
In March 2020, Velimir Petkovic was appointed to take the helm of the Russian national handball team and the contract with the 64-year-old German coach, who was born in Yugoslavia, was signed for the period of four years.
The 2021 World Men’s Handball Championship in Egypt, where the Russian team was invited to participate after receiving a wildcard, is the first international tournament for Petkovic in the post of the Russian team’s head coach.
Commenting on the wildcard issuance for Russia, Petkovic told TASS last August that it "was not a surprise for me and I knew that Russia would be handed a wildcard. I am sure that such sports power as Russia must be participating in the world championship as it is conditioned by deeply rooted traditions of the Russian handball school.".