GB ready for 'toughest challenge'

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter

Captain Lynn McCaffertyexternal-link says GB's women's handball team face their toughest challenge ever on Saturday against world champions Russia.

Crystal Palace should give an indicator of their progress towards the Olympics.

"We have to go in with our own goals and not focus on the opposition or their stature," McCafferty said.

"To improve we need to be playing teams like Russia ahead of the Olympics and whilst it'll be a huge challenge we'll approach it like we would any other."

The GB team, which was only formed in 2005, lost their opening 2012 European Championship qualifierexternal-link 34-18 away to Montenegro on Wednesday, but team manager Melanie Chowns insisted they had gained "valuable experience and lessons".

However, reaching next year's competition in the Netherlands will be a tall order.

"Russia aside, Montenegro were fifth at the last Europeans and Poland are strong as well," said McCafferty of the qualifying group.

The team failed in their Euro 2010 qualifying bid after losing all of their matches but after convincing victories over Finland to reach this stage and an encouraging campaign at the Venus Cup tournament in France, McCafferty insists the squad are making good progress.

"We thought we had a tough draw last time around, but this is even tougher," she admitted.

"We all want to improve as individuals, but we have this bigger picture as a team to play better together," concluded the GB skipper.

Saturday's match at the National Sports Centre begins at 1500 BST and tickets are still availableexternal-link.

The team are next in action at the Olympic test event, taking place from 23-27 November at the Handball Arena in the Olympic Park, where they will be joined by Austria, Angola, China, Poland and Slovakia.

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