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01.12.2014, 15:28
Danes head to Hungary full of confidence
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TOURNAMENT REVIEW: Denmark won the Golden League in Norway ahead of three other EHF EURO 2014 teams
 

Danes head to Hungary full of confidence 

Denmark will fly to the Women's EHF EURO 2014 in Hungary and Croatia in confident mood after winning their second test tournament in succession, seeing off the challenge of fellow EHF EURO entrants France, Serbia and hosts Norway to claim victory in the Golden League over the weekend.

Convincing Danes

It was clear from the opening match in Arena Larvik that Danish coach Jan Pytlick and his Norwegian opposite number Thorir Hergeirsson were both focused on victory, rather than experimenting with their line-ups. 

The Danes triumphed for the fourth time in five meetings with Norway as although the hosts improved as the game went on, they could not wipe out Denmark’s clear lead and eventually fell 24:21.

Pytlick’s side followed that success with a comfortable 32:20 win against Serbia before coming from behind to beat France 26:23 in the Oslo Spektrum and claim first place in the tournament.

The Danes were convincing in victory and this stemmed from their strong defence. 

As he suggested he would do before the tournament, Pytlick tried out his different offensive formations, but the Danes were still at their best in a 6-0 set up, with their defence looking particularly reliable and their attack more fluent than ever.

Pytlick also used the tournament to select the 16th and final player to join his EURO squad, and the last ticket went to 20-year-old left back Anne Mette Hansen from Kobenhavn Handball.

"Anne Mette Hansen will have an important role to play at both ends of the court. She can cover a position in the central defence very well, and she also has important qualities in the attack," explained Pytlick.

Loke a boost to Norway

Defeat against Denmark will always hurt a Norwegian, but apart from that opening loss, the hosts enjoyed a good tournament, which will give them hope of a big performance in Hungary.

After the defeat to Denmark, the Norwegians secured a narrow 21:20 win against France and then confirmed a second-place finish with a 30:18 win against Serbia.

The Norwegian team appeared to have a lot of potential in defence as well as attack, and it is an obvious boost to their attacking play that line player Heidi Loke has returned to the team.

"In our first two matches, we started well, but then we fell out of the game to be down at half-time. In our third match, we avoided this, at least," said coach Hergeirsson.

"With a good defence and good goalkeepers, we got more counter attacks, and our attack had more flow in general, but we still have things to work with."

Hergeirsson will have to work without right back Linn Jorum Sulland, however, as she was ruled out of the EHF EURO with injury.

Sulland will be replaced by Ida Bjorndalen Karlsson from Danish league leaders Team Esbjerg.

France on the right track

Although France only finished third in the tournament, the team showed considerable progress, and it is obvious that national coach Alain Portes has a versatile squad at his disposal.

France started by beating Serbia 22:18 before going on to lose 21:20 to Norway and finishing with a 26:23 defeat against Denmark.

The return of Amandine Leynaud in goal is a real boost and has given Portes a selection headache with at least three top goalkeepers at his disposal, even without the injured Cleopatre Darleux.

Of course, France still depend heavily on their experienced stars, such as Allison Pineau, Camille Ayglon and Alexandra Lacrabère, but they also possess some talented young prospects with Niombla Gnonsiane showing real potential.

Still, the coach was not content.

"The team is still not at the peak of its form. There are still some preparations to make with these players," said Portes.

Serbian injury worries

If Serbia are are to have any chance of matching the silver medal they won at the World Championships on home soil last year, or the fourth place finish they achieved at EHF EURO 2012, they will surely need to have at least some of their six injured stars available to them. 

Coach Sasa Boskovic will be keeping a particularly close eye on the progress of key back court players Andrea Lekic, Kristina Liscevic and Sanja Damnjanovic, as well as goalkeeper Katarina Tomasevic, as they will be central to any success in Hungary and Croatia.

With such high-profile absences, it was impossible to asses Serbia based on their performances in Norway, where they lost 22:18 to France, a team they face in the preliminary round at the EHF EURO.

That reverse was followed by two 12-goal defeats, 32:20 against Denmark, and 30:18 against Norway.

Several of Serbia’s young players contributed promising performances, but their EURO campaign will depend on the fitness of their key players.

Photos: Joachim Schütz (stregspiller.com) / EHF


TEXT: Peter Bruun / jh / ts
 
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