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05.01.2014, 16:36
Denmark look forward to a 'once in a lifetime' experience
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EHF EURO COUNTDOWN: Mads Mensah Larsen and Kasper Sondergaard are both enthusiastic about playing at home at the EHF EURO2014
 

Denmark look forward to a 'once in a lifetime' experience

Playing a major tournament such as an EHF EURO on home court is probably a dream for any international player.

For the Danish players, this dream comes true in January, when Denmark hosts the 2014 EHF European Championship.

For the youngest players in the Danish squad, the dream is even likely to come true twice, as Denmark is also going to host the World Championship 2019 together with Germany.

"Most players do not even get this experience once in their life, so this is just fantastic," says one of the rising stars in the Danish squad, Mads Mensah Larsen.

The expectations are huge for the 22-year-old back court player from Aalborg Handball ahead of the European Championship, due to his many brilliant performances for Aalborg in the VELUX EHF Champions League as well as in the Danish league throughout autumn.

Even while he was bothered by a foot injury, did he show impressive form.

"When the team plays well, you play well yourself," is the modest explanation from Larsen who joined Aalborg from AG København in the summer of 2012.

"Obviously I have played a lot more here in Aalborg, than I did for AG, but I think I have managed to develop in both clubs.

"At AG, I developed in training due to the many good teammates I had there. Here in Aalborg I have developed more by playing," Mads Mensah Larsen told ehf-euro.com when asked to elaborate on the reasons for his rapid improvement over the past year.

Despite his recent fine performances, he is still very cautious when asked about his own importance to the Danish team.

"The competition for the positions in the back court line is so keen that I really do not want to talk about my own role at this point.

"Of course, I can play the centre back as well as the left back, but then again, the other right-handed back court players in the squad can also play both those position, so that does not really make me unique in any way," he says.

Sondergaard proud of being called key player

With his 32 years, Kasper Sondergaard can hardly be called a rising star any more – but a star and a crucial player in the team he is.

As a matter fact, in an earlier interview with ehf-euro.com, national coach Ulrik Wilbek named the right back from Skjern Handbold one of Denmark's key players.

"Of course it makes me extremely proud to be characterised as a key player, and I am definitely going to do my utmost to prove me worthy of that characteristic," said Søndergaard who is in for his fourth European Championship, and who was part of Denmark's winning team in 2008 as well as in 2012.

"Of course, it will be a great experience, particularly with 12,000 to 14,000 spectators in (Jyske Bank) Boxen.

"I only hope we can play a consistent tournament this time. When we became European champions two years ago, we had a rather messy start, before we started to play well – and at the World Championship last year, we played well until the final.

"This time I hope we can do well all the way.

"Of course, it is a handicap that Nikolaj Markussen is injured. You do not replace a 2,11 meter tall shooter just like that, and Mikkel Hansen cannot play the left back position all the time.

"However, Mads Mensah Larsen can play that position too, Thomas Mogensen can play it, and so can Rasmus Lauge. Therefore, I do not expect Nikolaj's absence to put any further pressure on us right backs, Mads Christiansen and myself," Sondergaard told ehf-euro.com.

Wilbek hopes for Lauge to get fit in time

While Nikolaj Markussen is definitely out of the EHF EURO 2014 with a torn Achilles tendon, the Danish team still hopes for Rasmus Lauge to get fit in time for the tournament.

The 22-year-old centre back from THW Kiel tore the back cruciate ligament in his right knee during the Golden League in Norway at the beginning of November, and he is in a race with time to get fit.

"I do expect him to get fit in time, the only question to me is what form he will be in," national coach Ulrik Wilbek said.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / ts
 
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