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25.05.2015, 11:50
Spaniards on the bench could be a good sign
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INTERVIEW: Kiel coach Alfred Gislason on the last matches of Aron Palmarsson, a funny statistic and his personal FINAL4 favourite.
 

Spaniards on the bench could be a good sign

He is still the only coach to have won the EHF Champions League with two different clubs: Alfred Gislason has led both SC Magdeburg (2002) and THW Kiel (2010, 2012) to the top of the podium. 

This year, for the fifth time out of six VELUX EHF FINAL4 events, Gislason (55) and Kiel will fight for the crown in Cologne. 

The Icelandic-born coach will meet former THW players in the squads of all three rival participants in Cologne: Nikola Karabatic, Wael Jallouz and Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson for Barcelona, Tobias Reichmann for Vive Tauron Kielce, and Momir Ilic and Christian Zeitz in Kiel’s semi-final opponent MKB-MVM Veszprém.

Kiel and Veszprém clashed in the knock-out phase of the VELUX EHF Champions League in 2013 (quarter-final) and 2014 (semi-final at the VELUX EHF FINAL4) – and both times Kiel were successful.

ehfcl.com: Has it been an easy journey to Cologne this season or was it harder than expected?

Alfred Gislason: To make it to the final destination of a competition likes this can never be an easy way. We had tough tasks this season, like the quarter-finalists PSG and Zagreb in the group phase and reigning champions Flensburg in the Last 16. But we climbed all hurdles, including an extremely tough task against Szeged in the quarter-final. 

ehfcl.com: So again Kiel will be in Cologne…

Alfred Gislason: When it counts, we are there – this is our attitude. I think we deserve to be among the four teams that will fight for the trophy now.

ehfcl.com: Is it a good omen to face Veszprém – the opponent Kiel beat in the 2014 semi-final – again in the semi?

Alfred Gislason: I don’t care about draws, as I cannot change them and do not have any influence on them. And especially this year I did not care about this draw, as three top teams – the best in Europe – made it to the semi-final. 

Veszprém experienced last year how it feels to be at the FINAL4 and will learn from this experience. They have an extremely strong squad, which was strengthened before this season. The depth of their team is impressive. 

ehfcl.com: What is your opinion of the rest of the teams?

Alfred Gislason: They have a Spanish influence and a Spanish style, as all coaches are Spaniards. Barcelona is my favourite – they are the best team in the world with Nikola Karabatic, who is in the form of his life. Kielce are well-rehearsed and physically strong. 

In general, all teams will be on the same level in Cologne. I expect a tremendous event.

ehfcl.com:  How will you prepare your team for the VELUX EHF FINAL4?

Alfred Gislason: At first we have our focus on the remaining Bundesliga matches, as we want to defend our title. We just had a training camp with some test matches in Istanbul to find our rhythm.

We prepare for all potential opponents, of course with the clear focus on Veszprém. We have to be prepared for all situations that could occur. This is my job to get the players ready.

ehfcl.com: The FINAL4 will be the last international event for Aron Palmarsson in the THW jersey. Are you sad that he will join Veszprém from next season on?

Alfred Gislason: I did not like his decision, but I have to respect it – such is life. He needed to take a decision also because of his health. Maybe it is easier for him and his body to quit playing in the tough Bundesliga. But personally I am sad that he leaves.

ehfcl.com: THW Kiel’s goalkeepers had enormous injury problems this season – what is the status?

Alfred Gislason: Since March, Johan Sjöstrand is out with so called Malta Fever – he was infected at the World Championship in Qatar. Due to this virus, he is out for the rest of the season. 

Andreas Palicka returned in a great way in the second leg of the quarter-final against Szeged after his injury break. And still we have young Kim Sonne and experienced Steinar Ege. Thanks to Kim we stayed on top of the Bundesliga ranking when Johan and Andreas were out.

ehfcl.com: Kim Sonne is a perfect example of rising talents at THW along with the likes of Rune Dahmke. Is it the new strategy of the club to focus on young stars?

Alfred Gislason: The club has invested a lot of money and power in the youth programme over the last six, seven years, but it takes such a long time until those talents knock on my door. 

It is long process to get talents ready to play on our level and, for example, to stand the heat in the Champions League.

ehfcl.com: Back to Cologne: Did you know THW Kiel has never lost a match at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 against a team coached by a Spaniard…

Alfred Gislason (laughing): Those journalists with their statistics – what would you do without those facts and figures? Talant is not 100 percent Spanish (laughing again).

To say it again: Every team can win the trophy this year, regardless if it is coached by a Spaniard or an Icelandic. But, if the run continues, we will be the one, so I’ll keep it in mind. 


TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg
 
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