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23.08.2018, 12:00
New players, same goal for Elverum
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VELUX EHF Champions League Countdown: Elverum Handball (NOR). With a lot of changes to their squad, the Norwegian champions will try again to reach the play-offs
 

New players, same goal for Elverum

Elverum Handball are returning to the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase for the fourth straight season. No wonder they are eager to get to the play-offs for the first time.

The team from a small town 120 kilometres north of Oslo have won the Norwegian domestic league every season since 2011/12 so taking the next step in Europe is an obvious goal.

Reaching one of the two top spots in Group D will be the target. And while they have improved each season, this year they have to deal with many changes to their squad.

Three questions before the new season:

- Can Elverum make it to the play-offs for the first time?


At first sight, the runners-up from Poland (Orlen Wisla Plock) and Spain (Abanca Ademar Leon) look like the toughest hurdles. However, the other three opponents are all national champions, from Switzerland (Wacker Thun), Romania (Dinamo Bucuresti) and neighbours Finland (Riihimäen Cocks). “Maybe nobody believes that it is possible but we have a dream of improving every year in the European competitions. Last year we took 10 points, that means that if we are going to take more this year, we are coming close to the next round,” head coach Mikael Appelgren says.

Appelgren regards Plock and Leon as clear favourites while the rest of the teams are on a similar level. “Last year we beat Ademar in Spain and they won against us in Norway, so it will be fun to play against them this year. Also because they are from a town like ours, which really breaths handball,” Appelgren says.

The Norwegian fans seem to be full of confidence as Elverum have sold more season tickets than ever before.

- How will the many changes in the squad affect their chances?

Seven players have joined, while six have left. While the squad might have deepened, it has to be considered that experienced left wing Andre Lindboe and talented right wing Kevin Gulliksen were among the players who have left.

Replacing them will not be easy as coach Appelgren will need some time anyway to put his new team together. “I do think we are stronger than last season, however, though it may take some time to make the team click,” he says.

- Can they benefit from their three-year Champions League experience?

That remains to be seen as all seven players, who have joined Elverum in the offseason, are new to the VELUX EHF Champions League. Still, the club, and handball in Norway in general, have benefitted from the team’s European adventures.

“Each year in the tournament we have been growing economically,” Appelgren says. “It has also been helping the whole Norwegian league to improve as other clubs see how much the VELUX EHF Champions League has helped us. There are a lot of teams in our league trying with everything they can to win our national play-offs and become part of the Champions League as well.”

Under the spotlight: Alexander Westby

In the past three VELUX EHF Champions League seasons, he scored 159 goals (64, 42 and 53, respectively) for Elverum. So replacing Andre Lindboe, one of the club’s outstanding players in recent years, is a tough ask. But newcomer Alexander Oerjevik Westby is up for the challenge. The 25-year-old left wing has joined Elverum from league rivals Bodø HK in Northern Norway on a two-year contract.

While Westby has some EHF Cup experience with Bodø, he is coming from a team with a rather fast attacking playing style, using their wings a lot. If he can adapt well, he might become a strong force for Elverum. Westby is not the only newcomer from Bodø, north of the Arctic circle, as line player Endre Langaas has also joined Elverum.

Self-esteem

Elverum have every reason to enter the new season with plenty of confidence. Their domestic targets are clear: winning the Eliteserien league, the play-offs and the cup. Internationally, a top-two spot in Group D is their dream.

“I do not see a reason to be in a competition without dreaming to go through to the next round,” experienced goalkeeper Morten Nergaard says. “It is a strong group but we have been showing the last years that we are capable of winning against really good teams. Victories against for example Montpellier two years ago have given the club the confidence to dream big.”

Fun fact

While Elverum are focusing on the future, they will look to their past for inspiration. In their Terningen Arena, the club have set up a new hall of fame, featuring nine players and coaches who have all made a substantial contribution to the Elverum’s rich history since the club was founded in 1946. “It makes you feel the passion and magic entering the arena. They make us believe in miracles every day,” according to the club.

What the numbers say

It might become a triumphant season for Elverum if they can hold on to their development from the past three years. Each time they appeared in the group phase, they increased their points total from the previous season. In their 2015/16 debut season, they finished on seven, the following year on eight, and last year on 10 points. Remember, Leon had 12 points last season to advance to the play-offs.

 

How many ❤️ get Elverum Handball 18-19❓ #sammenforelverum @ehfcl

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Elverum Handball (NOR)

Qualified for VELUX EHF Champions League 2018/19 season: Norwegian champions

Newcomers: Lukas Sandell (Ystad IF), Jesper Johan Gulliksen (Herkules), Simen Holand Pettersen (Sandefjord), Sigvaldi Gudjonsson (Århus), Jonas Myreng Elverhøy (Elverum youth team), Alexander Westby (Bodø), Endre Langaas (Bodø)

Left the club: Andre Lindboe (ØIF Arendal), Aleksander Børresen (retired), Kevin Gulliksen (GWD Minden), Nikolaj Mehl (Fredericia HK), Richard Hanisch (IFK Skövde), Vegard Bakken Øien (Nærbø)

Coach: Michael Appelgren (since 2014)

Team captain: Morten Nergaard

VELUX EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2018/19 season): 5
Group Phase (3): 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18
Qualification (1): 2013/14

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:

Group Phase: 2012/13; Last 32: 1995/96; Round 3: 2008/09; Round 2: 2011/12; Qualification: 2013/14, 2014/15

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Quarter-final: 2010/11

Norwegian league:
9 titles (1995, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)

Norwegian cup:
1 title (2009)


TEXT: Peter Bruun / ew
 
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