Day 2 of the European Junior Challenge at this super Prague venue. My first visit and it is such a great facility but I reckon that might be all I see of Prague as there is a big schedule of games with two English teams involved.
And this is a serious competition with coaches of the calibre of Dan Raphael (ex Chinese coach and now coaching Italy), Tormod Andreasson of Norway with the task of coaching the daughters of two Olympic champions - Trulsen and Davanger, and Markku Uusipavalniemi on the bench for Estonia.
I am here assiting our new English Junior Coach, Greg Dunn, formerly of Holland and originally from Ottawa. I think we are going to be a bit thinner by end of the week - from nervous tension and a lack of time to eat! Today for example we have games at 0900, 1230 and 1600 - following a late night game last night at 2045! But at least we have the evening off.
I was last at this challenge two years ago and it is amazing how the standard has increased even in that short space of time. A bit too early to summarise form, but one surprise is that the Danish ladies, who last year just lost out to Germany on getting to the World Juniors, are already on two losses having lost to Germany again and, more surprisingly, Poland by 2-7. Having come down last year Germany are probably favourites to go back up but could still face a challenge from Denmark if they recover, Norway and maybe Spain and Poland with Italy an outside bet.
There are two groups of men and the balance does not seem quite right. In one group it is difficult to see beyond Netherlands and Russia for the semi-finals, though Spain and Estonia could cause an upset, but unlikely to go all the way, while in the other group there are strong teams from Germany, Italy, France and the Czech Republic. My tip for a quick return to the Worlds is Russia with Italy a strong second chance.
All the results are here.