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03.07.2014, 17:03
Norway handicapped by loss of key players
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FEATURE: Injuries to Norway´s greatest talent Sander Sagosen as well as goalkeeper Torbjørn Bergerud has reduced Norway’s expectations ahead of the Men’s 20 EHF EURO 2014
 

Norway handicapped by loss of key players

When you talk about talents in Norwegian handball, you inevitably have to mention Sander Sagosen. The 18-year-old centre back, who is leaving Norwegian champions Haslum HK for Danish runners-up Aalborg Handball from the coming season, is one of Norway’s greatest handball talents in many years.

Former national coach Robert Hedin even went as far as to predict Sagosen to become the best handball player in the world.

Therefore, this article could very well have been on Sander Sagosen. And it probably would have been, had an injury not prevented him from playing the Men’s 20 EHF EURO in Austria later this month.

Worsening the situation for the Norwegians is that goalkeeper Torbjørn Sittrup Bergerud, one of the players who has made it into the senior team already, is also going to miss the championship due to injury.

“It is obvious that missing Sander Sagosen is a severe handicap to us. We do not have all that many bright talents in Norwegian handball and Sander is obviously an outstanding talent.

“Of course, it is also a big loss to us to be missing Torbjørn Bergerud, but still we still have a fine goalkeeper (Håvard Åsheim from Norwegian champions Haslum IL) so maybe that handicap will not be that bad after all. Among the field players we also have some highly qualified back court players such as Inge Aas Eriksen and Gøran Søgård Johannesen we can rely on,” Vidar Gjesdal, coach of the Norwegian Men´s 20 team tells eurohandball.com.

To Gjesdal personally, the preparations for the championship have also been rather turbulent.

Originally Christian Berge should have been in charge of the team, but as he was appointed temporary national coach of the senior team, when Robert Hedin stepped down this winter, Gjesdal was put in charge of the Men’s 20 team in his stead.

This means that he has only been able to work with the team since March.

“I started in the job right before the qualification tournament, so of course it has been a little turbulent,” admits Vidar Gjesdal who will have Christian Berge by his side in Austria, though.

He still does not know whether he is going to continue in the job after the championship.

“So far I have made an agreement with the Norwegian Handball Federation which includes the Men’s 20 (EHF) EURO. After that we will see what the future brings,” explains the coach, who will not be unemployed when the tournament in Austria is over.

From the coming season he will be taking over as head coach by EHF Cup participants FyllingenBergen, whom is joining from Norwegian league rivals Stord HK.

Lowering expectations

Considering the loss of Sagosen and Bergerud, it is quite understandable that the Norwegian expectations ahead of the tournament are pretty modest.

“Reaching the main round is the main goal for us, but even that may be hard to achieve when we look at the group we are in.

“France and Spain will undoubtedly be tough opponents, as will (FYR) Macedonia for that matter,” says Gjesdal, referring to Norway’s opponents in Group A.

Having appeared three times in the national senior team already, 20-year-old left back Inge Aas Eriksen from league club Stord IL is one of the most experienced players in the Norwegian squad which is also one of the reasons why the coach sees him as one of the key players.

“There may be some extra expectations on me, but I simply focus on doing as well as I can myself and hope to pass this on to my teammates.

“Actually, I see us a relatively equal squad,” says Eriksen who shares Gjesdal´s frustration over Sander Sagosen´s absence.

“Of course, his absence would be a handicap to any team. I was hoping for us to reach the semi-final, but considering the injuries which have hit us it may be hard to reach that goal. At first we will probably have to focus on getting out of our group,” finds Inge Aas Eriksen.

Norway are preparing for the EHF EURO by taking part in the tournament Scandinavian Open in Denmark from 18-20 July. Here, the young Norwegians meet Germany, Denmark and Sweden.

Photo credits: Paul Fekjaer and NHF


TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor
 
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