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18.09.2017, 17:19
Oftedal: “Staying at the top has become more difficult”
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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Norway playmaker Stine Bredal Oftedal speaks to ehf-euro.com about the upcoming EHF EURO 2018 qualifiers, the World Championship in December and her recent transfer to Györi Audi ETO KC
 

Oftedal: “Staying at the top has become more difficult”

When current world and European champions Norway start their qualification campaign for the EHF EURO 2018 next Wednesday, Stine Bredal Oftedal is going to be one of the key players in national coach Thorir Hergeirsson's team.

The 25-year-old playmaker is particularly important for the fast attacking play, which is one of Norway´s greatest assets.

In Group 1, Norway first meet Ukraine at home on 27 September, then they play Switzerland on the weekend. Their third opponents are Croatia.

All qualifiers are streamed live on ehfTV.

“Our chances in this group are obviously good, but nevertheless the matches have to be played before we can book the points,” says Oftedal.

“We know that Croatia is a nation with great handball traditions, and with a star like (Andrea) Penezic, we know we have to be at our best. Ukraine can also cause us trouble, while I don't know much about Switzerland yet.

“It is important that we take all matches as seriously as any other task, and that we prepare for them as thoroughly as always,” emphasises Oftedal.

Tougher to defend titles

Just like with the EHF EURO, Norway are defending champions when the World Championship takes place in Germany this December.

Stine Bredal Oftedal hopes for a title defence, but remains cautious about Norway's chances.

“We always want to be in the battle for the medals. However, just like at European Championships, staying on top and defending the title becomes more difficult all the time. There are more and more nations who are capable of going all the way,” she says.

“At a World Championship the tension is increased further by the fact that you go directly to the Last 16 after the group phase.

“However, it is obvious that we are going to do all we can to defend the title,” promises Oftedal.

Norway will be playing their preliminary matches in Bietigheim-Bissingen in the southern part of Germany.

This will give the Norwegian fans a longer journey compared to the EHF EURO 2016 in Sweden, when Norway played in Helsingborg and Gothenburg – and compared to the World Championship 2015 when Frederikshavn and Herning were the venues for Norway's matches in Denmark.

“We always hope for our fans to come and support us. Maybe there'll be some less with that longer journey, but still, our fans have often shown that they are there for us no matter where we play. I do not expect us to be without support in Bietigheim,” she says.

An overwhelming transfer

Ahead of the 2017/18 season Stine Bredal Oftedal, , who had been playing for Issy Paris Handball in Fracnce, joined ruling Women's EHF Champions League winners Györi Audi ETO KC from Issy Paris Handball.

“Playing for such a professional club surrounded by so many world stars – that is simply overwhelming! I am looking forward to the future here.

And while Oftedal had to leave her younger sister, Hanna, who continues playing for Paris, behind, she is looking forward to joining other Norwegian internationals such as Nora Mørk and Kari Aalvik Grimsbo.

“Nora is one of my closest friends, and generally, it always makes me feel safe to be around people I know well, so I'm extremely happy to have both of them here,” she says.

After her arrival to Györ, she had to get used to a considerably tougher competition for court time.
In her own positions, the centre back, she is up against highly competent rivals such as Nycke Groot and Anita Görbicz.

“You probably could not imagine tougher competition for the positions than here, and players like Nycke Groot and Anita Görbicz are both fantastic players.

“However, I also find this competition to be very inspiring. Furthermore, there are many matches over the season, and we need to be more players for each positions in order to make thing work,” says Oftedal.

Three rivals for the Champions League title

The defending Women's EHF Champions League winners are regarded as one of the top favourites to take the trophy again this season – and Stine Bredal Oftedal agrees.

“As reigning champions, it would be defensive to say that our chances of winning the title again aren't good. However, it will take a lot of hard work, and we are all aware of this.

“Great teams such as Rostov, Vardar and CSM Bucuresti are going to be particularly strong rivals to us.

“However, if we can only make it to the FINAL4 in May – and I hope and believe we can – anything is possible,” says Stine Bredal Oftedal.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / ts
 
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