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11.01.2017, 14:50◄ last page     

NEWS REPORT: The monthly awards go to Barcelona right back Kiril Lazarov for his impressive Champions League performance and Györ centre back Nycke Groot for leading the Netherlands to their first ever EHF EURO medal in December.

Lazarov and Groot take last EHF Player of the Month awards of 2016

While the men had only a reduced international schedule in December with just 13 matches in Round 9 of the VELUX EHF Champions League, the leading female players contested the EHF EURO 2016 in Sweden.

A panel of EHF correspondents throughout Europe have now voted for their EHF Players of the Month for December 2016. The men's award goes to Macedonian right back Kiril Lazarov from Barcelona, while Dutch centre back Nycke Groot from Györ has won the women’s election.

Lazarov: "December was very special for me"

The Macedonian standout Kiril Lazarov belongs to the most decorated players in club handball, still the EHF Player of the Month award has a special value for him.

"It is a great honour for me to be chosen as the best player in December, mainly as it is the first time in my career," Lazarov says. "Due to the top stars, who are part of the European competitions, it is definitely not easy and I am very satisfied. Thanks to everybody, who gave me his or her vote."

The right back had just one match with FC Barcelona in the VELUX EHF Champions League - but what a game that was. In Round 9, the Spanish champions defeated Paris Saint Germain Handball to go two points clear of their closest rivals on top of Group A.

"December was very special for me as we managed to beat PSG in a great match at the Palau Blaugrana so we remained on top of the Champions League ranking," says Lazarov, who also helped his team win the Asobal Cup in Spain last month.

Lazarov's focus has meanwhile shifted to the IHF World Championships in France, which start Wednesday.

"Our team is younger than ever before," he says. "Under the helm of our new coach, Lino Cervar, we are in a state of a big transition. So the expectations for France are not that high at the moment, but in sport you never know."

EHF Player of the Month - December 2016: Male
1. Kiril Lazarov (MKD) - FC Barcelona Lassa
2. Filip Ivic (CRO) - Vive Tauron Kielce)
3. Jonas Källman (SWE) - MOL-Pick Szeged
4. Julen Aguinagalde (ESP) - Vive Tauron Kielce
5. Alex Dujshebaev (ESP) - HC Vardar

Groot: "It is definitely an honour to beat these names"

After winning silver at the world championships in 2015 and placing fourth at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, expectations were high on the Netherlands coming into the Women’s EHF EURO 2016.

But led by centre back Nycke Groot, the Dutch lived up to their billing and won silver in Sweden for their first ever medal at Europe’s prime nations competition.

"I am still angry that we did not win gold but, of course, silver is also a good achievement," Groot says. "I am satisfied with my own performance and I am proud to be chosen MVP."

And now she has also been chosen EHF Player of the Month.

"Wow, it is definitely an honour to beat these names," says Groot, referring to the top five, which also includes Györ teammate Nora Mørk and Netherlands goalkeeper Tess Wester. "They are all very good handball players who act on a high level so I feel flattered that I won it."

While Groot returns to Champions League action with Györ as the Hungarian side will host Krim Mercator in Group A of the main round on 28 January, the centre back remains eager to win a major title with the Netherlands one day.

"We keep working very hard in order to win a tournament. That is definitely our ultimate goal," Groot says. "I think we belong to the world top now but we need to play smarter and work even harder."

With the recent successes of 'Oranje', handball has been gaining popularity in the Netherlands.

"Finally everyone in the Netherlands knows how exciting handball is," Groot says with a smile. "And I am very proud that we have caused it all."

EHF Player of the Month - December 2016: Female:
1. Nycke Groot (NED) - Györi Audi ETO KC
2. Nora Mørk (NOR) - Györi Audi ETO KC
3. Tess Wester (NED) - SG BBM Bietigheim
4. Clara Woltering (GER) - Borussia Dortmund
5. Cristina Neagu (ROU) - Buducnost

TEXT: Eric Willemsen / br

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