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04.11.2013, 09:53
Classy Hansen leads Denmark to victory
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TOURNAMENT REVIEW: Denmark win Golden League in Oslo despite poor performance in the last match against Norway. EHF correspondent Peter Bruun analyses the event that saw four EHF EURO 2014 participants taking to the stage
 

Classy Hansen leads Denmark to victory

Despite a poor performance during the last 35 minutes in their match against Norway, Denmark won the inaugural edition of the Men´s Golden League in Oslo ahead of France, Croatia and Norway on Sunday.

With four EHF EURO 2014 participants present, all four national team head coaches used the tournament to prepare their respective squads for the final tournament in Denmark in January.

EHF correspondent Peter Bruun had a closer look on how the teams performed over the course of the three-day event.

Denmark

The defending European champions were hit by injuries in key positions, as their regular first-choice goalkeeper Niklas Landin as well as middle back Thomas Mogensen and left back Nikolaj Markussen were sidelined with injuries, some of them probably deemed to be long-term ones.

Landin's absence gave national coach Ulrik Wilbek the chance to test his possible second choices for the EHF EURO 2014, and Markus Cleverly as well as Soren Rasmussen and Jannick Green all did well when they were given the chance.

In Markussen's absence, Mikkel Hansen (pictured below) received more playing time on the left back position, than he might have otherwise, and he used this additional time on court to prove that he is back in top form after his knee surgery back in June.

When Hansen needed a break, Henrik Mollgaard, Mads Mensah Larsen and Bo Spellerberg all filled in for shorter or longer spells.

In the middle back positions, Wilbek tested Bo Spellerberg as well as Mads Mensah Larsen along with Rasmus Lauge, until Lauge injured his right knee in Denmark's second match against Croatia.

The Danes got off to a slow start in their opening match against France, during which they had particular problems in their central defence in the first half when France went into the dressing rooms leading 15:12.

In the second half, however, Wilbek's men got their defence – and their attack in particular – working and by scoring no less than 21 goals during the last 30 minutes they won 33:29.

In their second match against Croatia not even the exit of playmaker Rasmus Lauge with what could be a serious knee injury stopped Denmark from winning 29:28 after an intense and very well played match from both sides.

These two wins meant that Denmark were sure to win the tournament before their last match against Norway, but the Danish team nevertheless dominated the match for the first 25 minutes and led 15:10.

From then on, however, they lost concentration, while Norway fought with all they had, and in the end Denmark had to concede their first defeat since the final at the World Championship in January this year, as Norway won as clearly as 32:26.

"We have to realise that when we don't have Rene Toft Hansen in our central defence, we do not have a defence at all," Ulrik Wilbek told the Danish TV station TV2 after the match, referring the fact that the Kiel line player was rested for the Norway game.

France

France were missing their legendary goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer as well as right back Xavier Barachet for the tournament.

Instead, Vincent Gerard from Dunkerque, Cyril Dumoulin of Chambery and Wesley Pardin from Toulouse got the chance to convince national coach Claude Onesta of their qualities – and so they did with various success, but it was obvious at times that there no Omeyer between the posts.

On Barachet´s right back position, Kevin Nyokas from Chambery got the chance, but also right-handed back court players such as William Accambray and Jerome Fernandez were tested in that position in the attack.

Despite having reached the mature age of 36 years, Fernandez proved that he has not forgotten the noble art of scoring goals – clearly demonstrated in the French 32:29 win against Norway on the second match day when the experienced Toulouse player scored nine times.

While France were not able to benefit form a fine start against a versatile Danish side, their fast and powerful attacking play and their physically strong and movable defence brought them a second place in the tournament through the 32:29 win against Norway and a 29:24 triumph against Croatia.

"This week has brought us a lot of stability. Our preparations towards the EURO are continuing, though, and there is still a lot we have to improve," Claude Onesta (pictured below) told the website of the French Handball Federation.

Croatia

Croatia came to Norway with all their international stars and were at their best when they could control the pace of the match.

They also enjoyed certain success with their 5:1 defence with Igor Vori pushing forward.

After having defeated Norway 28:26, even a fine performance against Denmark in what was arguably the best match of the tournament, did not prevent a 29:28 defeat against the European champions,

In the last match, Slavko Goluza's men were defeated clearly 24:29 by France.

Norway

Norway were hoping for their big star Kristian Kjelling to recover on time from his elbow injury, but the left back from Danish side Bjerringbro-Silkeborg will not be back on court until next week.

In his absence, Espen Lie Hansen from French club Dunkerque and Erlend Mamelund from Haslum took turns at the left back position - with some success for both of them.

In spite of offering fine resistance against Croatia as well as against France, the hosts ended up with narrow defeats in both matches, before their self-confidence ahead of the EHF EURO 2014 received a tremendous boost through the 32:26 win against Denmark in the last match.

The win was Norway's first against the Danes since 17 January 2008 – the opening match of EHF EURO 2008, when Norway won 27:26 against Denmark who eventually went on to become European champions.

"We have proved that we have a team who can perform. I was impressed by our defensive play, by Magnus Dahl in our goal and not least by young talented Sander Sagosen," Norway's Swedish national coach Robert Hedin told Norwegian TV2 after the tournament.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / ts
 
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