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20.11.2013, 09:48
Three assets and one problem for Sweden
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ANALYSIS: Sweden will have to rely on three assets to be successful at the EHF EURO 2014: Their defence, their wingers and their line players. The back court line, however, may be a reason to worry
 

Three assets and one problem for Sweden

When the Swedish national team cross the Øresund to play their preliminary round matches at the EHF EURO 2014 in Brøndby Hallen near  Copenhagen, their two coaches, Staffan Olsson and Ola Lindgren, have to rely on three assets if they want to proceed further west, namely to the main round group in Aarhus.

"The strong defence can take Sweden far, and in the attack they are OK on the wings as well as the line player position, while there is reason to be concerned, when it comes to their back court line," former Swedish international Magnus Andersson analyses.

Andersson, who played 307 internationals for Sweden, is currently Swedish team's HK Malmö head coach. The reason he utters his concerns about the Swedish back court line is becauseit has been hit by a series of injuries recently.

"Left back Kim Ekdahl du Rietz hasn't played many internationals since the 2012 Olympics, as he has been bothered by several injuries in the meantime.

"On the right back there is still a big question behind Kim Andersson, and Johan Jakobsson has only returned recently to Aalborg after also having been out with injury for some time," Andersson told ehf-euro.com.

All eyes on Kim

National team coach Staffan Olsson recently admitted that the Swedish hopes depend a lot on the injury situation in general, and on Kim Andersson's recovery in particular.

"Our chances depend a lot on how many players we have fit when the times comes. It will be crucial to us to have at least Kim Andersson, but also Kim Ekdahl du Rietz fit and in shape," he said.

"Our expectations are primarily to advance to the main round. We know that we need to maintain a high level to do so.

"It is important that we don’t get our key players injured and that we can keep the players' group intact.

"To reach the top positions in the European Championship you need to get many pieces of the puzzle in the right place, and also some luck."

So far, however, Andersson is still not playing for his club KIF Kolding København.

The 31-year-old right back is still recovering from the shoulder injury which has been preventing him from shooting since April, and he is still following a special training programme which should bring his left shoulder back to work.

"Sweden do not have a Mikkel Hansen, like Denmark do, and that reduces their options in the back court line. Kim Andersson in his best form can fill that role, but the big question is if he will get fit in time and what match form he will be in if he does," Magnus Andersson says.

Young talents ready to shine

At the Super Cup in Germany at the beginning of November, Olsson and Lindgren tested several young talents, partly due to the absence of injured key players, and some of them did really well.

Combined with the fact that Sweden won the Men's Junior World Championship this summer, the future should actually look bright for the Swedish national team.

Magnus Andersson agrees, but: "It may take some years to form a really strong team again with those young players, and that is not likely to help Sweden in January."

At the EHF EURO 2014 Sweden have been drawn to Group D in which they face Croatia, Montenegro and Belarus.

Playing in Brøndby, there is no doubt that the Swedes will have some kind of a home advantage, as many Swedish fans are expected to take the short trip across the Øresund to support their handball heroes.

"As always in an EHF EURO tournament, there are only good teams. Our opponents in the preliminary round are all opponents with a lots of strength," says line player Tobias Karlsson.

"We have all respect for Belarus as well as Croatia. Montenegro we have played a lot of times the last years in different occasions, and we know it is a team with a lot of heart, but also many good handball players."

If Sweden finish among the best three teams in their group, they will be moving on to Aarhus, where they will run into the best three from Group C, consisting of France, Poland, Serbia and Russia, in the main round.

"There is no doubt that playing in Brøndby will be an advantage, as many Swedes will probably come and support the team.

"A second place in the preliminary group is probably realistic, but the main round will be tough for Sweden who are definitely not among the favourites, when it comes to playing for the medals," Magnus Andersson finds.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / Björn Pazen / ts
 
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