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14.07.2014, 09:00
Swedes expecting tough competition
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FEATURE: Sweden admit to be among the favourites at the Men’s 20 EHF EURO 2014 but see several other contenders
 

Swedes expecting tough competition

Sweden appear to be universally seen as one of the favourites together with Denmark and Germany ahead of the Men’s 20 EHF EURO 2014 in Austria at the end of this month.

Coach Jan Karlsson is willing to admit that his team is among the competition’s top sides, but he sees several other contenders for the title.

“I think it is going to be a tight and tough tournament. It is probably correct that we are among the teams who can reach the top of the tournament, but so can several other teams, and not only Denmark and Germany.

“For instance, Slovenia are usually strong at those championships and I expect them to be among the contenders in Austria too,” Jan Karlsson tells eurohandball.com.

In his squad, Karlsson has quite a lot of players with considerable experience from the Swedish league already, and even a few with experience from the VELUX EHF Champions League.

That goes for centre back Henrik Olsson, line player Albin Stenberg and left wing Viktor Hallén, who all played for HK DROTT Halmstad in the competition’s group phase last season.

“Experience is crucial at championships like this. Partly experience from other championships with short breaks between the matches, but also experience from international matches at club level, and here the Champions League experience of those players obviously comes in useful,” admits Jan Karlsson who sees the DROTT playmaker Henrik Olsson as one of his key players.

And Olsson is ready to use all his Champions League experience in Austria: “You always get some valuable experience when you play international matches and especially when you play against some of the best players in the world, as you do in the Champions League. Obviously I hope to benefit from that in this championship too,” says the 20-year-old centre back, who scored 21 goals for DROTT in the group phase last season.

“Still, even though we have many experienced players in the team, it is hard to say where we stand ahead of the tournament, as we have not seen all the other teams yet, but I hope we will be among the top teams,” Henrik Olsson tells eurohandball.com.

Keepers and playmakers need to perform

“At a championship like this you need good goalkeepers too, though. You do not win anything without good keepers, so it is absolutely necessary that our keepers (Tobias Thulin and Renny Svennberg) perform at their best.

“Furthermore, our back court players and in particular the centre backs Jesper Konradsson and Henrik Olsson play a very important role,” finds Jan Karlsson.

Jesper Konradsson is one of the players in the squad who are in for experience in Europe’s elite competition in the coming season. Together with line player Oscar Bergendahl, Konradsson can look forward the playing against teams like FC Barcelona, SG Flensburg-Handewitt, Wisla Plock and KIF Kolding København in the group phase of the 2014/15 edition of the VELUX EHF Champions League.

“I can probably get some useful international experience ahead of the Champions League matches against some of the world´s best players. You get experience for every international championship you play, and at the EURO I may also meet some players from our upcoming opponents in the Champions League.

“However, first it is all about doing great in the EURO, which will be a tough competition, but where we are among the favourites after having played two great championships already,” Konradsson tells eurodhandball.com.

“There is no doubt that the Alingsås players can gain a lot of valuable experience at this championship which will also come in useful to them in the Champions League,” says Karlsson, who is sharing his time as coach of the Swedish Men´s 20 team with the job as a club coach in Norway.

He is in charge of the Oslo based club Bækkelaget who finished in a surprisingly fine third position in the Norwegian league this past season.

“It is really no problem coping with those two jobs. Two of my players in Bækkelaget (Emil Nedregård and Kristian Rammel) are both in the Norwegian squad for Austria, so I am not neglecting them in any way.

“Furthermore, national team gatherings and events are always held at time when the national leagues have a break, and apart from this, the internet and all its streaming sources makes it easy to be up to date all the time,” concludes Karlsson.

Tournament information

The Men’s 20 EHF EURO takes place in the Austrian cities of Linz and Traun from 24 July to 3 August 2014. For more information visit the official website and the event’s Facebook page.

Over the next two weeks and during the tournament eurohandball.com and the EHF EURO Facebook page will also feature regular reports, features and photo galleries.

Austria also hosted the Men’s 18 EHF EURO 2012 when the same generation of players took to the court. Back then Germany won, Sweden came second and Denmark placed third. Austria finished sixth.

The previous Men’s 20 EHF EURO took place in Turkey in 2012. Spain won ahead of Croatia and Slovenia. Austria had not qualified.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor
 
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