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27.08.2015, 15:26
KIF favourites to take 15th title
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SEASON PREVIEW: Despite a reduced squad, KIF Kolding Kobenhavn are seen as favourites to win the Danish championship for the third time in succession.
 

KIF favourites to take 15th title

The squad is not quite as deep as it was last season, and the number of matches will be increased this season, but still people in Denmark tend to see KIF Kolding Kobenhavn as the hottest favourites to win the Danish championship again.

This would be the third time in succession the club would take the title, and the 15th time in the history of KIF.

The Danish league season starts this weekend, and like previous years, the eight best played teams among the 14 teams in the league, qualify for the play offs, where the champions are found.

Compared to last season, KIF have said goodbye to Kim Andersson who has returned to his childhood club, Ystads IF in Sweden, while a further back court player, Lasse Boesen has ended his active career to become sport director in the club.

While Andersson has been replaced by Russian international Konstantin Igropulo, no replacement has been signed for Boesen.

With an extended VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase, KIF may look ahead at an increased number of matches with a reduced squad, but still their rivals do not doubt in the ability of the experienced team to take yet another title.

“Kolding are obvious favourites. They have pretty much the same team as last season,” finds Ole Norgaard, head coach by last season's runners-up Skjern Handball who lost the Danish Super Cup narrowly 23:22 to KIF last week.

Skjern is the only Danish club who has ever taken a European title in men's handball, and even two of them. The club from the far west of Denmark won the Challenge Cup in 2002 and 2003.

Many people see Skjern as contenders to the Danish championship like last season, but Norgaard is a bit cautious about his team's chances, partly because the club has said goodbye to the Danish internationals Henrik Mollgaard (on loan to PSG Handball) and Nikolaj Markussen (gone to league rivals Bjerringbro-Silkeborg).

The club, who finished third in the EHF Cup last season, has signed Norwegian international Bjarte Myrhol from Rhein-Neckar Löwen and Swedish international Marcus Olsson from IFK Kristianstad, while Norwegain goalkeeper Magnus Dahl has also joined from Kristianstad, but still, the Skjern coach is moderate in his optimism.

“We have made a few changes in our team, and we are probably going to need the many game we are going to play before Christmas to make our team tick. However, I hope, of course that we can be part of the deciding matches when we reach the spring,” Ole Norgaard tells ehfCL.com.

Aalborg hoping for progress

KIF and Skjern are both representing Denmark in the VELUX EHF Champions League this season – KIF in Group B, Skjern in Group D. The other Danish teams in Europe this season are Aalborg Handball, Bjerringbro-Silkeborg and Team Tvis Holstebro who are all in the EHF Cup qualifiers.

Last year, Aalborg were in the Champions League, and their head coach, former Danish international Jesper Jensen hopes that the reduced number of matches may do his team good.

“It is a hope for us to win the Danish championship, though we have to mention Kolding as the favourites. However, their players have grown another year older, and that is not necessarily an advantage for players of their age, while getting a year older is an advantage to our players. Bjerringbro-Silkeborg is also a contender, while the loss of Henrik Mollgaard may be too tough for Skjern,” says Jesper Jensen who can welcome the Swedish goalkeeper Andreas Palicka from THW Kiel.

Palicka will have to wait several months for his partner between the Aalborg goalposts, as Soren Westphal is sidelined with torn cruciate ligament.
This does not reduce Jesper Jensen's optimism considerably, though.

“Obviously, it is our goal to qualify for the group phase of the EHF Cup, but all our group matches will be after new year, and I hope this can be an advantage for us. We want to at least reach the semi-final in the Danish championship play off, and we hope that the semis will not be the end for us as they were last season,” says the Aalborg coach.

KIF wanting to win all matches

In another potential top team, Bjerringbro-Silkeborg, head coach Peter Bredsdorff-Larsen also sees KIF Kolding Kobenhavn as main favourites for the title.

“Kolding will have to carry the burden of being favourites. They have the squad, the experience and the winning culture.

“However, we also have certain expectations from ourselves. After winning the bronze last season, we would really like to take one step further and reach the final – and in a final, anything is possible,” says Peter Bredsdorff-Larsen who has Danish international Nikolaj Markussen, joining from Skjern, as his most prominent newcomer.

In KIF Kolding Kobenhavn, Henrik Kronborg is back in the seat as head coach after Aron Kristiansson has left, and Kronborg does not pay much attention to other people's expectations from his team.

“I don't really care what others think of us and of our chances. Our own goal is to win every time we play, it is as simple as that. When it comes to favourites, I think it is hard to point out any really obvious favourites, but there are many good teams, such as Skjern, Aalborg, Bjerringbro-Silkeborg, Tvis and Aarhus,” finds Henrik Kronborg.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / br
 
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