Williams targets lesser lights as British handball makes Games bow in Copper Box


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The Independent Online

Great Britain handball playmaker Ciaran Williams has targeted the two non-European teams in his side's group when they make their Olympic bow next week.

The GB men were drawn in Group A with reigning gold medallists France, reigning silver medallists Iceland, Sweden, Tunisia and Argentina as they compete at the Games for the first time. Coach Dragan Djukic's men have struggled to compete with the European powerhouses on their turbulent journey towards London, so the games against the African and South American opponents represent their best chances of adding to their total of one competitive victory.

"The European sides are countries with 60 years' experience of handball and we've got six years," Williams said. "With the top European nations it's a case of bridging the gap and being as competitive as possible against them – which we have done, but for just 30 or 40 minutes. It's about doing it on the big stage and we are looking at the two non-European teams.

"They defend more openly and they haven't got the biggest handballing history; they have still got more than us, but when we started out and tried to fast-track it was to try and catch these nations rather than the top two or three, so that's where our opportunity lies, I think. We know what our goals are: it's about the performance, being competitive and closing that gap as much as possible. When we play at home, it's like we're a different team; if everyone gets behind us in the Copper Box [Olympic handball arena] we can really push forward."

As with many of the players selected in both the men's and the women's handball teams, Williams has made personal sacrifices along the way in a six-year journey to London 2012, none more than giving up the captaincy a year ago to focus on his fitness and form. But he says all the heartache will have been worth it when he steps out next Sunday against France.

"Being selected is a moment I will never forget," he said. "A lot of emotion came out that made me forget about the tough days – sleeping on the floor in Germany and painting and decorating in Denmark; I'd do it all over again for this experience, knowing I'm a part of Team GB."