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30.12.2013, 19:50
Norway welcome the return of Kristian Kjelling
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EHF EURO COUNTDOWN: Norway did well in their test matches in autumn, and the return of their star player has boosted the team's confidence ahead of the EHF EURO 2014 even more
 

Norway welcome the return of Kristian Kjelling

"It has been no easy job to nominate this squad," said Norway's national coach Robert Hedin on 11 December when he announced the 18 players out of whom he is going to nominate the 16 of his final squad for the EHF EURO 2014.

Towards ehf-euro.com he goes even further: "For the previous major championships I have had about 12 names that were given more or less, and then I have had to nominate young but relatively incomplete talents for the remaining positions.

"This time I had qualified players for all positions. With this squad, I feel that we really have a team for the future. That does not necessarily mean that we are going to peak at this European Championship, but within a few years, we will really be able to mingle with the best."

Norway did rather well in their test matches in the autumn. In the Golden League on home court, in Oslo at the beginning of November, they suffered only narrow defeats against Croatia and France and finished the tournament with a surprising six-goal win against Denmark - Norway's first win against their neighbours in almost six years.

In the meantime, Norway have even been reinforced by the return of Kristian Kjelling (small picture left), one of Norway's most prominent male handball star in recent years.

The 33-year-old left back was absent from the Golden League due to an an elbow injury which required surgery, but now he seems completely fit and heading for the top form.

In his latest matches for his Danish club Bjerringbro-Silkeborg before new year, he showed impressive form.

"A Kristian Kjelling in top form will obviously be a large reinforcement for our team, and it is good to have him back," Robert Hedin said.

However, Norway's coach remains cautious when it comes to predicting his team's chances at the EHF EURO.

"I think we have a team who can achieve a lot in the years to come, but there is no doubt that we are in an extremely tough group this time, with Spain, Hungary and Iceland.

"I hope for the support from many Norwegian fans in Aalborg, and I hope we can win at least one match and qualify for the main round that way.

"We have shown already that we have a strong team, and for instance we have beaten Denmark, so I think we have proved that our opponents will have to be at their best to be able to defeat us," Hedin said.

Ege believes in his successor

Kristian Kjelling is not the only key to success for Norway. The goalkeeper position is just as crucial – at least if you ask a person who should really know something about that part of the game.

Steinar Ege has the record when it comes to internationals for Norway. 262 times did he guard the Norwegian goal, and for a great part of those matches Ole Erevik was his substitute.

Now, at the age of 33, Erevik (pictured above) is the undisputed first-choice keeper by Norway, while Steinar Ege is with the Norwegian national team as goalkeeper coach. According to Ege, Erevik's performance will be a decisive difference between Norwegian success and failure.

"The short and simple answer to the question what it will take for Norway to be successful is whether Ole Erevik hits his top form on his home ground in Aalborg.

"Of course, a Kristian Kjelling in his best form would also be a boost to any team, if he is used in the right way," Steinar Ege told ehf-euro.com.

Sagosen – a future world star?

Some words also have to be said about Norwegian handball's new rising star: Sander Sagosen, the centre back from Haslum HK, who only turned 18 in September, has drawn quite some headlines already.

"He will not only become Norway's best handball player, but the best handball player in the world," national coach Robert Hedin predicted recently.

"He already plays like a player with much more experience than his 18 years.

"Furthermore, he is a better shooter and much more dangerous in front of the goal than most other playmakers. He and our other young playmaker, Christian O'Sullivan, are both important to our success, too," Hedin explains.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / ts
 
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