Ahead of the Men's EHF EURO 2014 qualification, eurohandball.com speaks to Sweden's national coach Ola Lindgren
First challenge for Olympic silver medallists
When Sweden begin their qualification for the EHF EURO 2014 with a home match against Ukraine on 1 November, it will be their first game since winning silver at the London Olympics in August.
It will also be their first challenge without star player Kim Andersson. The 30-year-old right back said 'goodbye' to the national team after the Olympics.
However, the Swedish team is still in the hands of two men who know all there is to know about gaining success on the international stage, as former national team stars Steffan Olsson and Ola Lindgren still share the job as national coaches.
Eurohandball.com spoke to the latter about the team´s new challenges.
Eurohandball.com: You will be opening the EHF EURO 2014 qualification with a home match in Lund against Ukraine. What are your chances in the opening match?
Ola Lindgren: We probably cannot hide the fact that we are favourites, not after our success at the Olympics. However, Ukraine have a good team with many fine handball players, and we do not have to go further back than to our World Cup qualifiers last summer, where we lost to Montenegro in order to find signs of warning that things can always go wrong, if we are not there one hundred per cent.
Eurohandball.com: Only two days after the first match, you play away against the Netherlands. How likely is it that you will have four points after the first two matches?
Ola Lindgren: Obviously the chances of winning that match are also good, but in international handball you should never underestimate any opponent. Experience has taught us that much, even if the Netherlands are not a household name.
Eurohandball.com: Although the two best teams of the group qualify, it is important to win the group with regards to the seeding for the final tournament. With Poland being the fourth and last team in your group, how do you see the chances of winning the group?
Ola Lindgren: I think Poland is pretty much on the same level as Sweden. They have a lot of good players, and it will be interesting to see what they can do after hiring a new coach (ed. Michael Biegler). However, even though you are right that the first place is important, qualifying is our main objective at the moment. Then we will have to see, if we can also win the group.
Eurohandball.com: What did the silver medal at the London Olympics mean to the team?
Ola Lindgren: It proved that there is a lot of quality in our team, and that was particularly important after we had a period, where we suffered from a lack of stability, so I think it gave the team some new self-confidence.
Eurohandball.com: One could say that a new era is starting with these EURO qualifiers, the era without Kim Andersson. What does his absence mean to the team?
Ola Lindgren: Of course, Kim is a fantastic player who meant a lot to our team, and who is obviously difficult to replace. However, I find that Johan Jakobsson who plays in Denmark (in Aalborg Håndbold, ed.) is getting better all the time, and we also have Albin Tingsvall from Lugi who has played very well in the Swedish league lately, so all in all, I see the successors coming.
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TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor