FEATURE: St. Petersburg will host a unique penalty shoot-out between the home team and FH Hafnarfjordur of Iceland to settle the last vacant place in Men's EHF Cup Qualification
Sharpshooters only: High Noon in St. Petersburg
A new chapter of handball history will be written in Russia this weekend. Right at noon on Sunday, St. Petersburg HC and FH Hafnarfjordur will have a Western-style penalty shoot-out for survival.
At stake is the only remaining open spot in the Men’s EHF Cup Qualification Round 3.
The unique decider will make the mind wander back to High Noon, the famous Academy Awards winning Western movie from the 1950s, and how matters were settled back in the day.
Even without Gary Cooper as one of the shooters in St. Petersburg, the event at Neva River is bound to go down in history.
The Court of Handball decided on the shoot-out following a protest filed by St. Petersburg HC after the second leg of Qualification Round 2.
After both teams had won their respective home game with identical results (32:27), extra time took place instead of a penalty shoot-out as mandated by the EHF Cup Regulations 2017/18.
As Hafnarfjordur’s appeal has not been successful, the Icelandic side is required to travel the 2,700-kilometer-long way back to Russia for the shoot-out that will decide which team is going to face Slovakian champions Tatran Presov in the last qualification round before the group phase.
As Hafnarfjordur are an amateur-team, another trip to Russia has a big impact on the players and staff, and their jobs in daily life.
Making the best of an extraordinary situation
Though not ideal for the Icelandic side, head coach Halldor Johann Sigfusson tries to make best of this extraordinary situation.
“We try not to let our standpoint in the matter affect our performance,” Sigfusson tells eurohandball.com, adding he does not put any pressure on his players leading up to the shoot-out.
“You can never predict what will happen in a shoot-out like this. It is just like a coin toss and it could be decided on pure luck,” Sigfusson says.
So, how has the preparation been for this event?
“A certain group of players has been taking penalty throws at the end of practice but other than that, we are not preparing in a special way. We have decided who will take the penalties, but not in which order,” says Sigfusson, revealing that the mental preparation is crucial, as well.
“We have to have strong characters taking the throws; players who are willing to take responsibility. But I don’t put any pressure on the guys. It will just be a bonus to go through from this, and if we lose, we lose,” the coach says.
“This couldn‘t be more awkward and we are making history by just taking part in it. But we can’t do anything else but go on with a smile on our face and do our best.”
No special preparation in St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg’s head coach, Dmitri Torgovanov, has also decided who will take the seven-meter shots for the hosts but time has been lacking for special preparations.
“I have chosen the players, but I will not tell you any names. We haven’t had any special preparation for the shoot-out as we have had no time for that,” Torgovanov tells eurohandball.com.
In his career as a player and a coach, Torgovanov has never dealt with a similar situation.
“Most definitely this is something unique - not just for me, but for anyone else,” he says. “We don’t make any jokes within the team. Everyone is very serious. There is no room for joking around as we have an opportunity to go through to the next round.”
According to the St.Petersburg coach, his team will need fortune to win the shoot-out.
“In a way this is really a lottery,” he says. “A match can be decided by skills and quality, but good luck also plays a role in this situation. Everything will be decided very quickly.”
Although the penalty shots will likely last for only a few minutes, a large audience is expected at the arena as spectators get in for free.
How the shoot-out works
Only the players and officials who were on the official match report of the second leg will be eligible to take part. One hour before the shoot-out, the goal for the throws will be determined so each team have at least 20 minutes to warm up at this goal. The whole procedure will follow the Men’s EHF Cup Regulations 2017/18 (page 20).
Five minutes before the start, both coaches have to nominate their five shooters, but they are still free to determine the sequence of their shooters. Each of these players will take one throw, alternating with their opponents, until a decision has been reached. The team having to take the first penalty will be determined by the referees by drawing lots. The team winning the draw may choose whether they wish to throw first or last.
The goalkeepers may be freely selected from the match report and exchanged in accordance with the rules of the game. Goalkeepers also may take throws, and throwers may perform as goalkeepers.
If the score is level after the first round of penalty throws, the shoot-out will continue until a decision has been reached. In the second round, the other team shall start. Again five players will be named, and players selected before may be named again. In this round, a decision has been reached as soon as a goal difference arises after both teams have taken a throw.
TEXT: Andri Yrkill Valsson, Sergey Nikolaev / ew
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