He was named IHF World Handball Player of the Year in 2009, he was a World Championship silver medallist in 2007 and bronze medallist in 2009. And in Doha goalkeeper Slawomir Szmal has been an important key on Poland’s road to Friday’s semi-final match against host Qatar.
In this interview Szmal, nicknamed “Kasa” talks about his expectations, experience and his keys for success.
When you departed from Poland to Doha, did you already dream of reaching the semi-final?
Slawomir Szmal: Every team which arrived here had its hopes and dreams. You are not going to Doha because of the sun and to have a nice holiday. It was our goal to get closer to the Olympic Games here, and by reaching the semi-final we already qualified for the Olympic Qualification Tournament. And now we even hope for hosting this tournament in Poland.
What do you expect from the semi against the host Qatar?
Slawomir Szmal: It will be a really tough challenge for us, they have a great team with strong players like their goalkeepers and Markovic – and they will be supported by a full arena. So we should only focus on us and on our performance, not on the atmosphere. But we are all looking forward to playing for this great chance to fight for a medal at the World Championship.
What might be the advantages of the Polish team?
Slawomir Szmal: We have more rotation options and alternatives coming from the bench. Qatar played almost the whole tournament with only eight players — we have a deeper squad. And in addition our performance level has improved from match to match after a shaky start in the preliminary round. So we are confident and I suppose we have more power left compared to Qatar.
You already played in the World Championship semi-finals in 2007 and 2009 – might this experience be another advantage for your team?
Slawomir Szmal: Six players from our current squad have already been in the 2007 final against Germany. But the rest of our team lacks this experience. Our squad is a mixture of young and experienced players. So definitely playing a semi-final is not a routine for Poland, it is routine for teams like France and Spain.
In exactly one year Poland will host the European Championship. Does the success of Doha boost the interest in this event in your country?
Slawomir Szmal: Definitely we have gained confidence from our performances here, and I hope of a positive effect for 2016. Mainly our younger players will profit from this experience in Doha.
Source: Qatar Handball 2015