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30.10.2013, 12:03
Revolution in sight for Danish national team?
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OPINION: While Denmark is getting in shape for the EHF EURO, one decision for the team's future has already been made. Gudmundur Gudmundsson will replace Ulrik Wilbek in summer 2014. EHF correspondent Svend Frandsen analyses the new constellation together with handball expert Bent Nyegaard
 

Revolution in sight for Danish national team?

On paper the Danish Handball Federation seems to have taken a very wise decision to let Gudmundur Gudmundsson replace Ulrik Wilbek as the men's national team head coach from 1 July 2014.

The Rhein-Neckar Löwen coach led the Icelandic national team to the final of the 2008 Olympics and the bronze medal at the 2010 EHF EURO, so no question his record speaks for itself.

But despite his impressive results, the DHF could be in for a very challenging period with Gudmundsson in charge.

First of all the Icelancic mentality is very different to the Danish.At the same time Gudmundsson clearly seems to have his strengths in his ability to analyse the game whereas Wilbek was incredibly gifted through making all 16 players in his squad highly motivated in fighting for the seven spots in the team.

Furthermore Wilbek was known for giving his players a lot of personal freedom to make decisions during games which signifies a big contrast to Gudmundsson's style.

A whole new experience

Danish TV commentator and handball expert Bent Nyegaard admits the Danish national team is in for a whole new experience.

"The Danish Handball Federation wanted something completely new and they have got it. People in Iceland are used to working like crazy which comes out of living on an island with extreme weather conditions.

"In Denmark we are bit more spoiled and have a more relaxed attitude towards things. So there is no question that Gudmundsson is bringing a whole approach to the game which the Danish players will have to adapt to," Nyegaard told eurohandball.com.

Nyegaard also points out that Gudmundsson again will to have to readjust to working with a bigger squad than what he has been used to as a club coach and that it may take some advice from Wilbek to make the transition smoother than expected.

"Denmark's strength in the final tournaments during Wilbek's reign has been the fact that Wilbek was great at reshuffling the squad, so you didn´t have a small group of key players who were worn out once you reached the final games.

"But one could suspect that Gudmundsson is not so keen to allow a very large group of players get their chance to shine," says Nyegaard.

Once Wilbek brings down the curtain on his glorious career as head coach for the Danish team, he will move into a role as sports director for the DHF.

This also means that he will be in charge of looking down and evaluating the efforts of Gudmundsson in his new position.

A truly curious and complex scenario which seems to hold a lot of challenges for Wilbek and Gudmundsson, two characters who are very different from each other, if the relationship is to succeed.

Unusual setup

"There is no question that this a very special and unusual setup," says Nyegaard.

"Not only will Gudmundsson have to live up to the results of Wilbek who is a living legend in Denmark. He will also have to do it while Wilbek is regularly looking over his shoulder to make sure things are running smoothly.

"The legend is going to become the mentor so to speak. This will no doubt demand something extra from both of them if they are to get along.

"But to be honest, I think the respect that these two people have for each other is so big, that the relationship will be far less challenging that it may look like on paper," says Nyegaard.

He stresses that despite the challenges that may lie ahead for Gudmundsson in terms of adapting to Danish mentality, building a good relationship with Wilbek and making the Danish squad gel, it was an offer he could not say 'no' to.

"From my perspective it is the most interesting national team to be working with for the next five years if you look at the talent in hand and the results from the Danish youth national teams.

"Wilbek has created some amazing results for Danish handball but Gudmundsson has the players at his disposal to go make them go even further," ends Nyegaard.


TEXT: Svend Frandsen / ts
 
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